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The Future

of the New
Artistic
Innovation
in Times
of Social
Acceleration
Thijs Lijster (ed.)

Antennae-Arts in Society
Valiz, Amsterdam
The Future of the New
Artistic Innovation in Times of Social Acceleration

T h i j s L i j s t e r (e d .)
Contributors
Lietje Bauwens
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi
Robin Celikates
Wouter De Raeve
Elena Esposito
Boris Groys
Alice Haddad
Akiem Helmling
Bojana Kunst
Thijs Lijster
Suhail Malik
Benjamin Noys
Hartmut Rosa
Nick Srincek
Carolyn F. Strauss
Rolando Vázquez
Alex Williams
Contents Part 2
Instituting the New
Contra-Contemporary
Suhail Malik

Introduction The Museum vs. Contributors


Harder, Better, Stronger, the Supermarket
Faster An Interview with Index
Thijs Lijster Boris Groys
Thijs Lijster Antennae-Arts in Society
Part 1
Accelerate/Innovate Outside the White Cube West Den Haag
A Gedankenexperiment
Beyond the Echo Akiem Helmling Colophon
Chamber
An Interview with The Paradox of the New
Hartmut Rosa Institution
on Resonance and On Time and
Alienation Imagination
Thijs Lijster & Bojana Kunst
Robin Celikates
The Museum,
All in Good Time Decoloniality and
Carolyn F. Strauss the End of the
Contemporary
Accelerating the New Rolando Vázquez
An Interview with
Nick Srincek and Part 3
Alex Williams No/New Future
Lietje Bauwens,
Wouter De Raeve & Disentanglement of the
Alice Haddad Present
An Interview with Franco
Accelerationism as Will ‘Bifo’ Berardi
and Representation Thijs Lijster
Benjamin Noys
The Trash of History
Accounting for Xeno Thijs Lijster
(How) Can Speculative
Knowledge Productions Predicting Innovation
Actually Produce New Artistic Novelty and
Knowledges? Digital Forecast
Lietje Bauwens Elena Esposito
Harder, Better,
Stronger, Faster
Introduction
Thijs Lijster
Novelty is thus systematically valorized at the expense of from the standpoint of one or even many defensive stances, it is
durability, and this organization of detachment, that is, of because any form of prospective politics must set out to construct
unfaithfulness or infidelity (equally called flexibility), con- the new.’ (Srnicek and Williams 2015, p. 75)
tributes to the decomposition of libidinal economy, to the What happens, however, if novelty and innovation them-
spread of drive-based behaviors and to the liquidation of selves become the problem? Today, a dominant strand of social
social systems. and cultural critique considers modernity’s ‘social acceleration’
Bernard Stiegler, For a New Critique of Political Economy (Rosa) and ‘short-termism’ (Stiegler) as the main sources of alien-
ation and discontent. Bernard Stiegler, in the passage quoted at
Make It New! the top, points to innovation as the cause of the liquidation of so-
‘New!’ ‘Improved recipe!’ ‘Now better than ever!’ This much is cial systems. Hartmut Rosa points to the paradox that despite all
clear: if you want to sell something, you have to emphasize its nov- our timesaving technologies people hardly have the feeling that
elty. The driving force of history is innovation, constant progress, they have plenty of time. On the contrary, more and more people
and improvement. That is at least what we are made to believe; it feel lost in a world that innovates perpetually in ways that are be-
is the dominant ideology of our times. Despite the four decades yond their control. Furthermore, there seems to be an increasing
of postmodernist scepticism towards the modern idea of ‘pro- a-synchronicity between the various social domains: the relative-
gress’ lying behind us and despite the downsides of ‘innovation’ ly slow-working world of politics can hardly keep pace with the
that we are experiencing in the shape of economic, humanitarian, world of finance, while the time needed for study and practice is
and ecological crises, innovation and growth remain the cardinal often lost or lacking in a world saturated with distracting gadgets.
principles of our times. According to Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi our biological bodies cannot
Not so long ago this idea, or ideal, of constant innovation cope with the expansion and acceleration of digital technologies.
was most forcefully voiced and promoted by artists and art the- The once provocative punk slogan ‘No Future!’ now expresses a
orists. ‘Make it new!’, said Ezra Pound. ‘Il faut être absolument widely shared feeling.
moderne’, said Arthur Rimbaud. ‘And plunge to depths of Heaven Innovation has thus become an inherently problematic no-
or Hell,/ To fathom the Unknown and find the new!’, exclaimed tion for contemporary art and art theory. It can no longer be con-
Charles Baudelaire. After God, morality, and even beauty had sidered a self-evidently progressive or positive value, now that it is
ceased to function as credible criteria for valuing the arts, all that part and parcel of post-industrial consumer culture and capitalist
remained were novelty and originality. The ‘shock of the new’, as production. Social movements and theorists now tend to advocate
Australian art critic Robert Hughes later called it, became the slowing the pace of capitalism, criticizing its constant demand for
primary characteristic of modern art, the first as well as the final expansion and growth and emphasizing the need for continuity
criterion for its valuation. Moreover, due to this preoccupation and security in people’s lives. They are joined by humanitarian
with innovation, modern art was often considered a source of so- and environmental organizations, underlining the need for sus-
cial and cultural critique and an ally of social movements resisting tainable solutions to the problems caused by ‘innovation’. And of
the domination of tradition. course, before long the critique of acceleration was co-opted by
Throughout the twentieth century and up until today, art- a whole industry of lifestyle gurus and therapists who propagate
ists and intellectuals who criticize consumer culture often invoke slowing down through ‘mindfulness’, slow-cooking, slow sex, ‘be-
the ‘new’. The culture of capitalism is ‘infecting everything with ing in the moment’, and so on.
sameness’ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2000, p. 94), as the standard- This poses a challenge for contemporary art and art theo-
ization of commodity production left little room for the spontanei- ry. Can artistic innovation still function as a source of critique?
ty, creativity and individual autonomy expressed in art. Innovation People continue to turn to the arts for critical relief from and
should be the solution to this problem, as Nick Srnicek and Alex resistance against the onrush of empty commodity novelty, once
Williams write: ‘If the supplanting of capitalism is impossible described by Walter Benjamin as ‘the eternal recurrence of the

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new’, but how can the arts and its institutions provide such relief innovate? How useful are terms such as ‘avant-garde’, ‘novelty’
or resistance when they are continually forced, either by nature and ‘progressive’ in the art world, now that they have become
or habit, to be innovative? Artists themselves, as well as the art co-opted and therefore tainted by consumer capitalism? How rev-
institutions, are struggling with a legitimation crisis and find it olutionary are the artistic revolutionaries actually, now that the
difficult to respond to the ever-growing influence of the creative modus operandi of capitalism is itself the ‘permanent revolution’
and culture industries, where innovation is continuously hailed once dreamt of by Trotsky?
as the primary source of profit. How can the arts critically relate The Future of the New brings together debates in different
to the contemporary culture of change when they are themselves disciplines: debates within art theory and sociology concerning
and by their own definition forced into innovation? the historical and institutional origins of artistic innovation, de-
bates within aesthetics and philosophy of time concerning the
The Future of the New ontology of innovation, and debates within critical social theory
In The Future of the New: Artistic Innovation in Times of Social Ac- concerning the social, political, and cultural pathologies created
celeration artists, theorists, and professionals working the art field by acceleration and perpetual innovation. The book addresses a
reflect on the role of the arts in a world that is speeding up and theme that is highly relevant to the contemporary fields of art and
changing through joint forces of globalization, digitization, com- art theory. It is aimed at critics, artists, researchers, students, and
modification, and financialization. In this book the reader will all those who are interested in the current state of artistic innova-
find an investigation and exploration of concepts and strategies tion or concerned about its future. Combining timely analyses of
that allow us to deal with some of the problems and challeng- contemporary art and inspiring visions for the future, The Future
es mentioned above. How do artists, theorists, and art organiza- of the New attempts to set the agenda for the debate on the func-
tions deal with the changing role of and discourse on innovation? tion, value and future of artistic innovation.
Should we renounce innovation as a neoliberal ideology and turn
to traditional practices (the revival of craftsmanship)? Should we Outline
look for alternative ways to innovate, or should we change our The first part of the book focuses on the notion of acceleration,
discourse and look for other (new!) ways to talk about the new? and opens with the leading theorist of social acceleration, the
Or should we, as the accelerationists have proposed, immerse German sociologist and critical theorist Hartmut Rosa. In a
ourselves fully in social and technological acceleration, as in a conversation with Robin Celikates and myself, Rosa reflects on
gesture of over-identification, so as to speed-up even more in order the implications of his theory of social acceleration for the arts.
to let capitalism crash against its own limits? Though Rosa considers acceleration to be the main source of con-
For The Future of the New I invited theorists, critics, art- temporary social and political alienation, the solution, in his view,
ists, and professionals in the art field to reflect on the concept does not simply lie in slowing down. Rather, as he has elaborately
and practice of artistic innovation, and its role in various concep- discussed in his recent work, we should look into the opposite
tions of the relationship between art and social critique. Some of of alienation, which he calls ‘resonance’, a relationship of mutual
the central questions are: what does innovation in general and recognition and transformation. The arts, in his view, have the
artistic innovation in particular mean today, and can it still func- potential to form an ‘oasis’ for resonance in our ever-accelerating
tion as a source of social critique? Can and should we distin- world, and thus a model for the ‘good life’.
guish between different concepts of innovation (e.g. on the basis Carolyn Strauss, founding director of the Amster-
of their relationship to history and tradition)? How important dam-based Slow Research Lab, could be said to write from such
is innovation for artistic practices? Are innovation and novelty an oasis of resonance. She reports of her journey across three
necessarily connected to acceleration, or can we think of ways continents in two months, which she admits does not sound quite
to unlink them? Can contemporary art still be a source of social slow, but that nevertheless allowed her to reflect on newness from
and cultural critique without having to forsake the imperative to a Slow perspective. For Strauss, the ‘new’ is very much entangled

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with the contemporary (Western) focus on growth, progress, and interested in the prefix ‘xeno’ that was developed by The Laboria
profit. Hence, she tries to look for alternatives, which she finds Cuboniks in their Xenofeminist Manifesto (2015) in response to
in the notion of ‘emergence’, in which the new is not so much Srnicek and Williams. Bauwens reports of her experiences and in-
thought of as the next step in a line of progress, but rather as vestigations into ‘xeno’ in the project ‘Perhaps it is high time for a
something ‘emerging’ from a thick web of complex relations, like xeno-architecture to match’, which she did together with architect
a flower from a swamp. In line with Donna Haraway’s call to ‘stay and spatial scientist Wouter De Raeve, and during which the ques-
with the trouble’, Strauss considers her Slow Research Lab a place tion arose how ‘big’ a blind spot can be in order to still be fruitful.
for not-knowing, where things can evolve and emerge without the
tyranny of certainty. The second part of the book focuses on the historical and institu-
In many ways, the position of Alex Williams and Nick Sr- tional conditions of the new. It opens with an interview with phi-
nicek form a counterpoint to Strauss’ essay. With their 2013 pub- losopher, curator, and critic Boris Groys, who wrote his seminal
lished manifesto #Accelerate, Srnicek and Williams stirred much book On the New more than 25 years ago. Even though declared
debate among the left by attacking head-on what they called ‘folk obsolete by postmodern discourse in the 1990s, Groys considered
politics’, a leftist tendency to romanticize local communities and the category of the new ‘inescapable, inevitable, indispensable’
immediate action, thereby disregarding much-needed larger-scale (Groys 2014, p. 7). For this volume, I asked Groys to look back at
visions towards the future. In line with the accelerationism of cy- his own work and to reflect on the contemporary relevance of the
berpunk theorist Nick Land, they argued that instead of slowing concept of the new. In Groys’ view, the new is always dependent
down capitalism, we should accelerate even further in order to on and conditioned by the archive or collection – be it a museum,
reach a post-capitalist society, a vision they further elaborated in a library, or a canon. This explains the continuous importance of
their 2015 book Inventing the Future. Lietje Bauwens, Wouter De the new, but it also demonstrates that today the new is jeopard-
Raeve and Alice Haddad asked Srnicek and Williams to reflect ized, since the contemporary cultural sphere is rapidly replacing
on the artistic translation of accelerationism, on the difference the model of the archive with the model of the supermarket.
between underground and mainstream in the artistic and cultural Type designer and cofounder of IKK (Institute for Art and
realm, and on the question whether it makes sense at all to envi- Critique) Akiem Helmling follows up on Groys’ line of reasoning
sion oneself on the ‘outside’ of capitalism. in his contribution titled ‘Outside the White Cube. A Thought Ex-
The interview with Srnicek and Williams is followed by periment’. Starting out from Marcel Duchamp’s remarks on the
two critical responses to accelerationism. In ‘Accelerationism as possibility of an ‘ascetic art’, Helmling reflects on the relation be-
Will and Interpretation’, Benjamin Noys, author of Malign Veloc- tween art and its contemporary institutional context, which is the
ities: Accelerationism and Capitalism (2014), argues that the ques- White Cube. Artists such as Duchamp, but also Beuys, Hsieh, and
tion whether or how accelerationism could translate into artistic Metzger have stretched the notion of art to such an extent that
practice is beside the point, since accelerationism is from the anything can be art and everyone is an artist. This leads to the
outset an aesthetic rather than a political strategy. Noys distin- interesting paradox that while the new is dependent on the White
guishes between the right-wing (reactionary) accelerationism of Cube, the very same White Cube today also forms a restraint on
Land and the left-wing (progressive) accelerationism of Srnicek the infinite potential of art to become life.
and Williams but argues that both of them are ways of aestheticiz- In her essay ‘The Paradox of the New Institution: On Time
ing politics, creating a manipulative and authoritarian vision that and Imagination’ dramatist and dance and theatre theorist Boja-
disregards rather than facilitates the domain of arts. na Kunst investigates the contemporary regime of production in
Philosopher Lietje Bauwens, in her chapter ‘Accounting art, which is tightly related to the production of the new and to
for Xeno: (How) Can Speculative Knowledge Productions Actu- what she in her book The Artist at Work: Proximity of Art and Cap-
ally Produce New Knowledges?’ reflects on some of the theoreti- italism (2015) already called ‘projective temporality’. This regime,
cal and artistic responses to accelerationism. Most notably, she is Kunst argues, governs artistic subjectivity through disciplining

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and precarization, even or precisely where the artistic institutions Contrary to the tendency within both art and theory to replace
seem all the more innovative and progressive. On the basis of an the new by the now, I argue that the new, understood in terms of
investigation into the nature of the institution and the process of a critical appropriation of tradition, can still have an important
institutionalizing, she calls on institutions to not only produce role in artistic discourses.
and exhibit the new but also to critically reflect on their own tem- Sociologist Elena Esposito’s chapter ‘Predicting Innova-
poral logic. tion: Artistic Novelty and Digital Forecast’ looks into the past of
Sociologist Rolando Vazquez, in ‘The Museum, Decoloni- the new, in order to note that the new not always had the positive
ality and the End of the Contemporary’ locates the category of the ring it has had in modernity. This historical contingency of the
new in a colonial logic that for the past centuries has considered new might also mean that it could once again leave the stage.
the West as the centre of space and at the end of chronological The primary reason for that today, as Esposito argues, is the in-
time. Since museums played an important part in the construc- creasing influence of algorithmic predictions, which saturate con-
tion of such narratives establishing Western hegemony, Vazquez temporary society and determine the future in terms of what is
asks the question what it could mean to decolonize the museum. calculable in the present. This raises the question whether there
To do so, he argues, we need to develop a ‘decolonial aesthesis’, is still any room left for the open experiment that we understand
which revolves neither around the search for novelty nor contem- art to be.
poraneity but is about breaking open and disobeying the chronol- In his chapter ‘Contra-contemporary’, theorist Suhail Ma-
ogy of modernity. lik provides no less than a new theory of the new. He takes issue
with the famous statement by Jameson that it is easier to imagine
The third part of this volume focuses on the notion of the future. the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Ac-
The new seems closely related to the future: it is usually under- cording to Malik, this statement is not only a modernist redux
stood as what comes next, or as a part of futurity in the present. that paradoxically affirms the ‘eternal present’ of contemporane-
But what happens to the new if there is no future, as Italian philos- ity; moreover, he argues that it is not so much the absence of the
opher Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi provocatively argued in his 2011 book future that is our problem today, but rather that a surfeit of futuri-
After the Future? In the present interview with Berardi I asked ty conditions and thus precedes the present in a risk society. The
him what he means with post-futurism, and what its implications new, understood in Arendtian terms as the new-born present re-
would be for the arts. According to Berardi, the future that is over sulting from human action, is increasingly impossible in a post-
is the modern conception of it, which is entangled with notion of modern condition that is contra-contemporary. Moving beyond
progress, growth, and expansion. Instead, we should look for the the modern-postmodern deadlock, Malik envisions what politics
new in the present moment, disentangling the potentials hidden and art might look like in this contra-contemporary condition.
in the contemporary technological, social,l and intellectual con-
stellation that we are unable to recognize and mobilize due to its Bad New Things
exploitation by capitalism. In On the New Groys formulates the catch-22 logic of the new
In my own contribution, titled ‘The Trash of History’ I in perhaps its most elementary form: ‘There is no path leading
look at a central paradox of our time, which is that although we beyond the new, for such a path would itself be new’ (Groys 2014,
experience that everything is constantly accelerating and inno- p. 7). This is why, despite or perhaps precisely because of our
vating we also feel that nothing is really changing. This ‘petrifi- postmodern condition, we are not finished with the new; it con-
cation’ of history, as I argue, is due to the temporal logic that lies tinues to attract, arouse, and fascinate, or irritate, shock, and in-
at the heart of capital itself and has only grown stronger with the furiate. The new is what connects the empty shimmer of com-
emergence of the debt society. Artistically, this translates into modities, fashion, and the society of the spectacle with actual
the shift from the modern to the contemporary, in which the breakthroughs in science, politics, and the arts. Most of all, as
latter appears both as insatiable desire and as everyday banality. the contributions in this volume show, the new, unless it is merely

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16 17
a slogan in management and advertisement jargon, continues to References
demand contemplation and critique. —— Benjamin, Walter. 1998. Understanding
Perhaps the point then is not to either embrace or reject the Brecht. Translated by Anna Bostock.
London and New York: Verso.
new, but rather to search for alternative ways to relate to it. Bertolt —— Groys, Boris. 2014. On the New.
Brecht, in a conversation with his friend Walter Benjamin, once Translation G.M. Goshgarian. London
and New York: Verso.
said ‘Don’t start from the good old things but the bad new ones’ —— Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W.
(Benjamin 1998, p. 121). Indeed, any artist or theorist who, like Adorno. 2002. Dialectic of
Enlightenment: Philosophical
Brecht, wants to provide something more than a mere temporary Fragments. Translated by Edmund
relief from the accelerating world and wishes to critically reflect Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford University
Press.
on their time, has to confront the new, either to determine how —— Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams. 2015.
their time differs from earlier ones, or to envision a world beyond Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and
a World Without Work. London: Verso.
the present.

Acknowledgements
Let me conclude by thanking a few people without whom this
volume would not have been possible. This book is the first in the
Arts in Society series that is the product of the Institute of Art
and Critique (IKK) that emerged from a partnership of the re-
search centre for Arts in Society of the University of Groningen,
West Den Haag, and Valiz publishers. I thank the IKK for finan-
cially supporting this book, Astrid Vorstermans of Valiz for her
confidence and advice, Marie-José Sondeijker for reading almost
all of the contributions and providing useful comments, the edi-
torial boards of Rekto:Verso and Krisis who commented on and
edited earlier versions of some of the interviews, and of course I
am most grateful to all the contributors.

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18 19
Part 1
Accelerate/
Innovate
Beyond the Echo
Chamber
An Interview
with Hartmut Rosa
on Resonance
and Alienation
Thijs Lijster and Robin
Celikates
‘If acceleration is the problem, then resonance might be the solu- a conception of ‘true’ humanity or authentic life, be it Rousseau’s
tion.’ This is the shortest possible summary provided in the first noble savage, early Marx’s ‘species being’, or Heidegger’s Eigen-
line of the 800-page book Resonanz: Eine Soziologie der Weltbezie- tlichkeit. Such conceptions of authenticity can easily become ar-
hung (2016). The book is the latest stage and logical next step in bitrary or oppressive even, for who is the philosopher or critical
the analysis and critique of modernity by the German sociologist theorist to decide whose life is ‘authentic’ and whose isn’t? Then
Hartmut Rosa, which started with the equally ambitious and en- again, Rosa argues, if we drop the conception of the good life
compassing book Beschleunigung: Die Veränderung der Zeitstruk- altogether, the concept of alienation also becomes empty; it then
turen in der Moderne (2005). There, Rosa dissects modernity as a risks becoming a mere label for things we don’t like.
process of acceleration, comprising the three dimensions of tech- This is why in Resonanz Rosa sets out to analyze ‘reso-
nical acceleration, acceleration of social change, and acceleration nance’ as alienation’s opposite, thus also aiming at a better un-
of the pace of life. Although his analysis is largely in line with Paul derstanding of alienation and creating a conceptual tool to criti-
Virilio’s ‘dromology’ and David Harvey’s analysis of modernity as cize it. Though not so much itself a conception of the good life,
‘time-space compression’, the underlying question and concern of resonance according to Rosa lies at the basis of all conceptions
Rosa is somewhat different. While Virilio seems to aim mainly of the good life. It refers to a relation between subject and world
at a cultural critique and Harvey at an analysis of capitalism as (Weltbeziehung) characterized by reciprocity and mutual transfor-
a system, Rosa is first and foremost interested in the question of mation: the subject’s experience of some Other calling upon it,
the ‘good life’. Like the earlier generation of the Frankfurt School, which requires understanding or answering but also has the abil-
Horkheimer and Adorno and, with qualifications, Habermas, he ity to change the subject. Resonance, as Rosa is quick to add, is
considers modernity in terms of a broken promise: the very tech- not a mere (subjective) experience belonging to the subject; he em-
nology and social revolutions that were supposed to lead to an phatically refers to the relation between subject and world, be it a
increase in autonomy are now becoming increasingly oppressive. relation between subjects, between the subject and object, or even
In Alienation and Acceleration (2010) he even calls acceleration of the subject to its own body. Not surprisingly, and in line with
a totalitarian process, because it affects all aspects of our per- the first generation of the Frankfurt School, art is for Rosa an ex-
sonal and social lives, and is almost impossible to resist, escape, emplary place for and medium of such relations (although religion
or criticize. Rosa writes: ‘The powers of acceleration no longer and nature are also important examples), and indeed functions as
are experienced as a liberating force, but as an actually enslaving a vestige as world-relations become increasingly alienated. Aliena-
pressure instead’ (Rosa 2010, p. 80). As the book title suggests, tion, then, is precisely the impossibility or inability to enter into a
Rosa considers acceleration as the primary contemporary source relation with the other. Indeed, all problems or ‘social pathologies’
of alienation, along the three axes famously described by Marx of modernity according to Rosa come down to this: that we are
in the passage on ‘estranged labour’: alienation of people from unable to form a meaningful relationship of mutual understand-
themselves, from their fellow human beings, and from the world ing and interaction, either with our material surrounding (e.g. in
of things. While we feel the constant pressure of having to do the case of labour) or with fellow human beings.
more in less time, there also seems to be a shared feeling of a loss For Rosa as a critical theorist, the concept of resonance
of control over our own life and the world, and therefore of losing functions on three levels. In the first place there seems to be
contact with it. an anthropological undercurrent in which resonance describes
Rosa’s latest book continues on the path of Alienation and what makes us human; the first chapters of his study deal with
Acceleration. For the concept of ‘alienation’, which has a long such basic animal and human behaviour as breathing, eating
tradition in modern philosophy and was recently taken up again and drinking, speaking and glancing, laughing, crying, and love
by Axel Honneth and Rahel Jaeggi (2016), is an inherently prob- making, all of which entail relationships of resonance. Secondly,
lematic category. The concept implies that you are alienated from resonance functions as a theory of modernization. In line with
something, where this something has often been associated with Charles Taylor, Rosa argues that modernity is a process in which

The Future of the New Beyond the Echo Chamber

24 25
the ‘self’ becomes less porous, hence increasingly closed-off from Your question has many layers. One has to do with
the world. At the same time, however, Rosa also considers moder- class: people always ask whether the speeding up of life—
nity as a historical period of increased ‘sensibility for resonance’ the increase in the pace of life—is the same for all layers
(Resonanzsensibilität): since resonance is not an ‘echo chamber’ of society. And the other question is, of course, on the
but a relation of questioning and answering, the subject needs a global scale: is it the same for all parts of the world? To
relative autonomy in order to enter into meaningful relationships the second question, I would actually say: yes, very much
with the other. The promise of modernity was precisely this, ‘that so, wherever you have processes of modernization. Ac-
we could move out into the world to find a place that speaks and celeration basically is at the heart of modernization. For
alludes to us, where we can feel at home and that we would be example, I just spent quite a long time in China and there
able make our own’ (Rosa 2016, p. 599). Finally, the concept of you see it happening, almost like crazy. You have this
resonance is, like we already noted, a critical tool, providing a logic of competition and of speeding up, so the people
framework to criticize both capitalist competition as source of there know immediately what I am talking about. And it
alienation, as well as false solutions and claims to authenticity, is not just on the scale of a small elite; it is very compre-
be it some fully individualized attempt at mindfulness, or populist hensive. And indeed, it is the same in Korea, Japan, Bra-
discourses of social and cultural homogenization. zil, and other places in Latin America. Of course, there
are certain places, one would think of some regions in
1 Acceleration Africa, where this change in temporal structures is not
Thijs Lijster/Robin Celikates: You have written extensively very widespread, and which I therefore call ‘oases’, where
about social acceleration, and you convincingly link tech- these forces of acceleration are not yet taking hold. So, I
nological innovation with social change and the accelera- would say acceleration is a global phenomenon: wherever
tion of personal/individual tempo. With regard to the lat- you have these processes of globalization or moderniza-
ter, however, we are wondering to what extent the kinds of tion you find acceleration. You will not always find indi-
problems or ‘pathologies’ you are describing are happening vidualization, divisions of labour, or democratization and
on a global scale, and to what extent they are specific is- sometimes these processes are not even clearly capitalist,
sues of the West or, to put it somewhat more bluntly, ‘first but the change in temporal structures is modernity’s most
world problems’. Capitalism, to be sure, affects people all widespread feature.
over the globe, but it doesn’t affect them all in the same Of course, there are always segments of the popu-
way, does it? What space does your theory allow for what is lation—and this varies in different countries—that do not
often called ‘die Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen’ (the really struggle with the shortage of time. My claim is that
simultaneity of the non-simultaneous)? when you look at the social strata, you find three different
layers. The first, which you could call the elite but is actual-
Hartmut Rosa: It is interesting that you mention ‘die ly the middle class, has completely internalized this logic of
Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen’, which is a phrase speeding up. So: saving time is saving money. It is the logic
made famous by Koselleck, for this phrase already suggests of competition, in particular, that they have internalized,
a kind of direction of history: it assumes you have things and competition is always related to temporality: ‘time is
that belong to an earlier age and things that belong to a scarce, don’t waste it’. For the second layer, further down
later age. What I’m trying to say is that we’ve reached the the social ladder, time pressure is not so much internal-
end of this idea of history moving forward, which means ized, but coming from the outside. Of course, that is true
that you no longer have the simultaneity of the non-simul- for most conditions of labour: shop floors in companies,
taneous, but you just have differences. So, some people are construction sites, care industries, etc. The people working
under a lot of time pressure while others are not. there are always short on time but usually it is someone

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else—the boss or the clock—who creates the pressure, and it that we should accelerate further in order to let capitalism
is not so much coming from the inside. crash against its own limits. In any case, acceleration in so-
cial and cultural theory has always had a rather ambiguous
TL/RC: People have to do more in less time? sense, of both alienating and liberating. Is there any ‘jouis-
sance’ [enjoyment] of acceleration possible in your view?
HR: Yes, always, and this is really true almost everywhere.
Recently I looked into truck drivers. They are told: ‘You HR: In my main book on social acceleration I first of all
have to deliver your load in a certain time, we don’t care wanted to identify the change in temporal structure that
how you do it.’ So, you either go too fast and you have to accompanied modernity. There wasn’t really a systematic
pay for the speeding ticket or you take the Autobahn, but account of it. What I wanted to do was to analyze what is
then you have to pay for toll, or you ignore the mandatory accelerating and what is not, and what may be the conse-
resting periods, otherwise it is a totally impossible task. quences of it. Looking to these consequences, I was not
It makes me angry when colleagues claim: ‘Rosa is only so optimistic about them. Nevertheless, I did not say that
describing the academic elites.’ I think someone who says speed per se is bad, and I didn’t say that slowness is good;
that has no idea about empirical reality and I would actual- certainly not the latter. I do share with the accelerationists
ly claim that is indeed almost the same all over the world. the idea that just being nostalgic about the past would be
Nevertheless, then you have a third segment of the a mistake, because this leads you very quickly to the idea
population, I call them ‘forcefully excluded’ or ‘forcefully that the past was much better and that of course is not the
decelerated’. If you are unemployed, then you may have a case. Today you sometimes find a nostalgia for the Fordist
lot of time on your hands, but even that is not always true. period, while this period was of course the most alienated
It will depend on what you do for a living, whether you’re age ever. So, I agree that speed per se is not the problem.
sick or depressed, and so on. But this kind of forceful or en-
forced deceleration is a kind of devaluation of the time you TL/RC: Are you thinking of Richard Sennett, or would
have then. The time you have is without any value and the you rather not mention names?
problem is that even then you feel the pressure of accelera-
tion, because you feel like you are lagging behind more and HR: Yes, I was thinking about Richard Sennett, though
more, and that it is impossible to catch up. So, this is why I I like his work very much. I very much liked his book on
claim that acceleration is an almost totalitarian force, you craftsmanship, for instance, because I think he has a very
feel the pressure wherever you are. strong sense there of resonance with regard to work. Nev-
The distinction I’ve discussed, between the inter- ertheless, when you read people like Sennett or Zygmunt
nalization of time pressure and time pressure as a force Bauman (and there are a lot of German sociologists too)
from the outside also raises interesting questions as to who and their critique of the postmodern condition, all of a sud-
has more resources to resist. Probably, you will find more den it sounds like the past was a great time.
possibilities and power to resist if the pressure comes from I don’t think speed per se is the problem, but I
the outside. Once it is completely internalized you are lost. also don’t want to just turn it around and say: well, if you
cannot do anything against it then let’s embrace it. That
TL/RC: What is your take on the more positive accounts is not a sensible stance for me. What I dislike about the
of acceleration that have been put forward, for instance by accelerationists is that they seem to give in and say: ‘Since
Deleuze and Guattari, who propose that we should accel- we cannot do anything about it let’s just get on top of the
erate even more, and enjoy acceleration. Or the #Accelerate movement.’ They always claim that something good can
Manifesto, by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, who argue come out of it, but I think that they are totally lacking the

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yardsticks of how to judge the consequences. Turning the TL/RC: Wasn’t it so that up until a certain point in time, at
perspective around doesn’t solve anything. In my book I least in the Western world, we were working less and less?
basically say: indeed, speed is not per se bad, but it is bad
when it leads to alienation. So, the question for me would HR: You’re right, and that is basically also what I write. But
be: what do the accelerationists do with this? now the increase in freedom, also what you could call pro-
gress, in the end will be sucked up again. I argue that we
TL/RC: Perhaps some forms of alienation might not be have to invest more and more psychological energy, polit-
bad. In Inventing the Future Srnicek and Williams argue ical energy, and material energy (resources) into the logic
in favour of total automation; this would in some sense be of mobilizing the world.
alienation, because it puts us even further from daily activ- You see this very clearly with our young people.
ities of the reproduction of life, but it also provides a lot of In the age that you were referring to, when freedom was
freedom to do other things. increasing, so up until the 1970s, when you asked young
people: ‘what do you want to do?’, they would talk about
HR: But this has always been the promise of modernization their dreams, or their aspirations, or their ideas. Now this
and acceleration, that it will eventually give us freedom, but has turned around. They ask: ‘what can I do in order to suc-
there has been a betrayal on both ends. On the one hand, cessfully compete?’ It is no longer about developing your
it didn’t give us freedom: you can see the exact opposite. own perspective but about fitting in.
I really insist on that. What I try to work out is a certain I’ve noticed this myself too. For some years I’ve
temporal logic, one that has a lot to do with the logic of worked with young people, just before their matura [sec-
competition, and which I call ‘dynamic stabilization’. That ondary school exit exam, TL and RC], and each year we
is really the core of my analysis of modernity. We can only are talking about what they are going to do next. I think
keep what we have—both on an individual and collective there has been a shift from about 20 years ago, where they
level—if we increase speed and productivity and so on. And would say ‘I want to do philosophy’ or so, and now they
this increase does not come out of thin air: we have to do come and ask: ‘what could I do if I study philosophy?’ All
it ourselves. Every year we have to run a bit faster to keep our capacities, all our energies, all our dreams are fitted
what we have. So, the idea that this will eventually give us into the logic of increasing productivity. As long as the ac-
freedom is simply wrong under the present conditions. If celerationists do not see that, I think that’s really bad.
one does not see that, one is blind to what has happened On one other point I would agree with them, name-
over the last 200 years. ly that I think we are not at the end of the logic of acceler-
It’s not that we’re only enslaved. I do think the liber- ation, not in the least. Paul Virilio has said this a long time
ating potential is there, but in this logic of dynamic stabili- ago, and was really visionary in this respect, that we are on
zation there is a shift in the balance between the liberating the verge of a fusion between computer technologies and
aspects and the enslaving aspects. The promise of moderni- bodies—biotechnology and computer technologies. With
ty has always been progress: let’s increase production, lets this, we can speed up our brains and our interactions prob-
come up with new innovative technologies, let’s speed up ably much more. What I think we definitely need is an idea
and so on, in order to reach some Golden Age. But today of ‘the good life’, and that is what I try to provide.
most people no longer perceive this acceleration as pro-
gress: you have to run faster, but not to get somewhere, but TL/RC: Coming back to what you said earlier, about mo-
to keep what you have. I think this horizon has become dernity’s promise of progress, we were wondering what the
more and more pale; now the impression is that we have to implications would be of your theory for what we tradi-
speed up otherwise we will have much more unemployment. tionally consider leftist politics? After all, we traditionally

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make the distinction between the ‘progressive’ left and the answer. This kind of connection has to do with being af-
‘conservative’ right. But what does ‘progressive’ mean once fected and feeling self-efficacious, i.e. experiencing one’s
progress itself is experienced as catastrophe, to borrow a ability to achieve things. This is more than just autonomy.
phrase from Walter Benjamin? And how would you see the I believe we have a kind of crisis of autonomy, par-
contemporary crisis of the left, or of ‘progressive politics’ ticularly when it concerns consumer autonomy. So, one
in general in this light? problem is that the formal or political autonomy, which we
did historically realize, is sucked up by the logic of speed
HR: The problem is that ‘progressive’ has always been and competition. The other problem is that autonomy is
a very ambivalent term, covering a lot of things. On the not sufficient; it is only one side of a good life. There is a
one hand, of course, it has referred to technological de- double crisis on the left, which is very problematic. When-
velopment: progress in science and technology and so on. ever you raise leftist ideas, people will ask you: ‘What? Do
On the other, it refers to the emancipatory power, or the you want to go back to the kind of state socialism we had
emancipatory ideals, which are probably more important in the past?’ and if you then of course say ‘no’, then that’s it,
when you think of the political left. The idea of progress right? What the left is lacking is a vision of what the world
in the latter sense was really about giving or having more could be like.
autonomy: emancipating individuals so that they are liber-
ated from traditional powers which have been repressive, TL/RC: So, the concept of resonance for you is also a po-
such as the Church, or the patriarchal system, but were litical category?
also clearly exploitative systems. There has been progress
historically right up to probably our present age in many HR: It is definitely a political category and I cannot em-
aspects, but I think there are two problems with this idea. phasize this enough, because it is often misread as an indi-
One problem is that this kind of formal autonomy vidualistic notion. The book is probably too long, but what
has been counterbalanced by the logic of competition, I try to say again and again is that resonance is not just
which we were just describing. So, there is a loss as well: about a subjective stance towards the world, that is why it
that people gain autonomy on the one hand, but that they is different from the Achtsamkeit or the mindfulness move-
lose it on the other hand because of the logic of a capitalist ment and so on. I’m not saying that if you are in the right
competition. The other problem, and you see this also in mindset, that everything is fine. Resonance is a two-way
the contemporary political crisis, is that there is a longing relationship, so it depends on what you relate to, a mode
for something other than autonomy, for a kind of reconnec- of being in the world. And this is not up to individuals to
tion. That is why I came up with this idea of resonance: decide. So, I really want to turn it into a political category
being connected to the world in a certain sense does not and also an almost institutional yardstick: how should in-
just mean: I want to decide for myself. Even progressive stitutions be established?
leftists define autonomy as living according to self-given My take—which I share with Adorno and Hork-
rules and principles, and of course they have a sense that heimer and the older critical theorists—is that our whole
these self-given rules and principles should be intersubjec- mode of being in the world, of relating to the world, is, I
tively discussed and so on, but nevertheless it is principles would almost say, screwed. We have a very instrumental
and rules. But I think that the good life does not mean relation to the world. Max Scheler, followed in this by Mar-
that I live according to my principles; people feel the least cuse, called modernity the Promethean stance. The world
alienated when they are overwhelmed by something. Ador- becomes a point of aggression: I want to explore it scientif-
no had a very strong sense of this or think of Latour who’s ically, I want to control it technologically, I want to rule it
talking about the feeling that you are called upon, and you by law and so on. It is relating to the world in order to make

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it verfügbar—I don’t really have a good word for it in Eng- have the chance to lead it. No one believes that anymore,
lish—to make it controllable, predictable, have it at our dis- right? No one believes that we will overcome scarcity; it
posal, and so on. This has to change. But this way in which is rather the opposite, we believe competition will result
we relate to the world, the way we are set in the world is not in even more scarcity, so that in the future we will have to
an individual issue, it is a deeply political category. work even harder. No one believes that with faster technol-
ogies we will solve the problem of time pressure and we
TL/RC: You are making a clear link between technological know that we won’t overcome ignorance. Precisely because
innovations on the one hand, and social acceleration on of all the progress in science and technology, we now don’t
the other. In the same way, since the nineteenth century, know what to eat, we don’t know how to give birth—we
all kinds of artistic innovations have been linked to revo- don’t know anything. This promise that everything will get
lutionary politics. At certain moments in time they even better has been lost. It seems that art is kind of in between
had this kind of alliance in which artistic and political van- these two notions of progress, although it has always leaned
guards together would attack the status quo. But do you more to the political and philosophical idea of progress:
think these are the same kinds of novelty or innovation? Is liberating human potentialities for the sake of human life.
innovation in the arts the same as in revolutionary politics, When you look at the non-technological side (and
or for that matter, in the succession of innovative commod- that is true for art, but for science too), there has been a
ities or technologies? And, related to that question, do you shift from ‘progress’ to ‘progression’. Progress for me is the
think notions such as ‘the new’ (or related concepts such idea of moving forward; there is some element of increase,
as creativity and so forth) are still of value in contemporary growth, or improvement. In art, as well as in science, at
artistic discourses? least the social sciences, we have given up on this idea.
You see it in many spheres, but most clearly in science.
HR: There are two distinctions that to me seem important In science progress meant moving towards the truth. Max
to make. One is that between technological and social pro- Planck once said: ‘You shouldn’t study physics, because
gress. When today you talk with young people about the very soon we will know everything.’ The idea is that we will
future it is very interesting that they think of it in techno- move forward and forward, and even that if we will move
logical terms: artificial intelligence, what will become pos- forward forever, we will get closer to the truth. Progression
sible to do and so on. That has changed a lot in comparison means something else. I expect that if you ask students to-
to the 1970s or 80s, when young people thought about the day, at least in the social sciences, why they want to be a
future in more political terms: lets shape the future politi- social scientist, and what they are going to do when they
cally! So, there has been a division in how we think about are social scientists, they will say: ‘I want to come up with
novelty, with a still unbroken belief—and this is not only a new ideas, and new questions, and new principles and new
belief but also a fact—in the expansion of our technological perspectives.’ There is still innovation, just as progression,
capacities. We peer deeper into the universe with satellites in the sense of new ideas, but it is no longer moving to-
and deeper into matter and we are more capable of con- wards the truth of the good society or whatever it is. This is
trolling it, so innovation there can be clearly recognized, also what I mean with the phrase ‘rasender Stillstand’: you
and there is progress. move very quickly, you have to be innovative and creative,
What has been lost, however, is the promise it car- original, and so on, but you’ve lost the idea of where you’re
ried, namely that through these innovations in science and moving to.
technology, life would become better. We would overcome When it comes to the arts, this is why I am now so
scarcity, we would overcome ignorance and probably even preoccupied with this idea of resonance. Art is not my ex-
suffering, we would finally know what the good life is and pertise, and although I like it very much I do not consider

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myself as a philosopher of art. With regard to the creation would be. Rahel Jaeggi puts it nicely, when she says: ‘Alien-
of art, the emphasis has always been on the creativity of the ation is a relationship of non-relationship’, so it is a wrong
subject. You have to be creative and come up with some- form of relating to the world. I think alienation only is a
thing new and so on. But I believe that even in art there powerful philosophical and sociological term if we keep
has to be what I call this resonance: there is something out the sensation, the feeling, that something is wrong here.
there that you need to connect to. It is not just the subject But if you then completely refuse to think about what the
in itself. right way of relating would be, then you are kind of lost,
and that is why the concept has lost all power. Richard
TL/RC: Does this shift from progress to progression also Schacht has also written about it, and he said that in the
make, in a way, the very notion of an avant-garde superflu- end alienation was used for everything people disliked. At
ous or irrelevant? that point it is no longer a useful concept, and you might
as well give up on it.
HR: Actually, I would not give up on this idea complete- What I am trying to do is think about what a non-al-
ly. I think art is still a vitally important sphere of society ienated way of relating to people, to things, to yourself, and
because it is the one sphere, perhaps next to religion, that so on would be. I try to reconstruct this by looking at the
is least dominated by this logic of dynamic stabilization. tradition of critical theory. All early critical theorists had
That means that art is one sphere where we can explore a strong sense of alienation; and even if they didn’t always
different ways of being in the world and of relating to the use exactly the same term, they would have an equivalent
world and I think really that this is what art is about, no like ‘reification’ or ‘instrumental rationality’. And they all
matter whether we are talking about dance, painting, or had a kind of counter-sense, of a different way of relating
literature. Exploring and experimenting with different to the world, like ‘mimesis’ in Adorno, or even ‘aura’ in
modes of relating to the world, imagining, reconstructing, Walter Benjamin’s work. Aura is a very ambivalent concept
or finding other forms of relating to things and to people, but I think he basically meant that even with things or with
coming up with new ways and possibilities. This is still an nature, or with a landscape, there could be different ways
important function of an avant-gardist art. of relating: it is looking back at you, it is speaking to you,
it is somehow getting through. The concept of alienation
2 Alienation only gains its strength when you really make the effort to
TL/RC: In the tradition of critical theory, from Marx to think of the opposite.
Rahel Jaeggi, the critique of alienation has tended to avoid Now there you have the problem you mention that
making substantial claims about human nature or the you have total pluralism in the ways that we relate to the
good life. You seem less hesitant, especially with regard to world. That is why I am very confident about the concept
claims about the good life. How do you think these can be of resonance because it describes the nature of a relation-
justified under conditions of deep pluralism? And what is ship but it doesn’t describe or prescribe the substance: it
the scope of these claims, both historically and culturally? leaves open what you relate to.

HR: When you look at the history of it, alienation has been TL/RC: Is it a formal category?
a very influential term, even up until the 1970s or 80s when
sociologists strived to measure alienation in different con- HR: You could say it is a formal category, although the
texts and with different methods. After that I think it dis- question of form or substance in this context is actually
appeared into the background for some time, because we totally confusing. It’s a kind of Vexierbild; it shifts. I think
didn’t know what a non-alienated way of being in the world it is substantive in terms of the quality of the relationship,

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but it is formal in terms of what is at the end. I am inclined only make its sound—that is resonate—if it is closed enough
towards a relational ontology, saying that the subject and to have its own voice. So, it needs to be closed and it needs
the world are actually created out of the relationship. So, to be open in order to be affected. It is a very specific form
I can say something about the nature of relationships, and of being closed and open. This is why I am a bit hesitant
that would be the way to reconcile the idea of resonance as about whether on some level maybe other cultures cannot
an idea of the good life with ethical and conceptual plural- so easily be described in terms of resonance, because the
ism or cultural pluralism. relationships between subject and world may sometimes
We try to study this at the Max-Weber-Kolleg in be more porous. This might be one level where maybe we
Erfurt. We now have a long-term project, studying Welt- have to adjust the concept in cultural terms, but on a basic
beziehung. This is actually a difficult term to translate into level I believe that it is really true that every human being,
English, because I would have to already introduce the wherever they are born, only becomes an individual, a self,
subject—subject-world relationships—while I am not sure or a subject, or however you call it, through processes of
whether ‘subject’ and ‘world’ are not already secondary resonance.
terms. Anyway, it is about these relationships in different
cultural settings. In my book I say that resonance has three TL/RC: Of course, your theory is also in that sense meant
axes: social, material, and vertical, and the way they are as a response to and a theory about modernity, right? In
spread out is different for every culture. For example, in the that sense it already is at least historically located.
vertical sphere it will depend on whether there is a god, or
if there are many gods, or whether there are Daoist entities HR: Yes, the main emphasis of my whole book was about
or whatever. It is the same in the inter-subjective realm: how did this develop in modernity. What sensibilities for
what kinds of relationships are made resonant, to whom resonance, what axes for resonance and what obstacles, so
and for whom? It is very different in all cultures and it cer- to speak, emerge in modernity, and what is the modern
tainly is the same with things. I think all cultures somehow way of relating to the world? But I did have this assumption
have the idea that certain places or spaces are resonant, that resonance is a kind of pre-modern capacity, so there is
or certain entities like the forest, or the sacred stone or an anthropological element there.
whatever. But I would even go one step further and say that
maybe even those three axes are culturally dependent be- TL/RC: To follow up on that, you say at a certain point
cause to distinguish between the social and the objective, that humans have a basic need for resonance just as they
the artefact, and so on, is already perhaps not necessary. have a basic need for food. That seems like a strong claim
which, if you look at it from the perspective of critical theo-
TL/RC: Or between artefacts and spirits? ry, might raise some problems with regard to the historical
and cultural variability of needs.
HR: Yes, exactly. In animistic societies you always find
axes of resonance, although they may be ordered very dif- HR: Do you not think it is a plausible claim?
ferently. But this is still reconcilable with the idea of res-
onance. I would have still one question though, and that TL/RC: It may sound quite plausible, especially in the
is that I do not know whether the very idea of resonance context of your book, but all the while there has been this
requires a closed subject, that is whether the subject and debate in critical theory—for instance if you look at femi-
the world maybe have to be somehow closed in order to be- nist scholars like Nancy Fraser, who articulate a critique of
come resonant bodies. It is the same with physical bodies: need interpretation and ascriptions in a meta-historical or
if you have a musical instrument, let’s say a violin, it will meta-cultural sense. So, either it is a strong claim, or it is a

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conceptual overstretch or a truism, in which a large range So, there are two sides to what I want to say. There is
of different activities or relations all fall under the heading an anthropological need or element of resonance, but then
of resonance. Then it becomes more a way of constructing the specific form it takes, the specific need and the spe-
a theory. cific sensibilities you can only explain historically, which
is what I try to do in the chapter on modernity, where I
HR: There are two problems or misconceptions with the try to work out our modern conception of love, for exam-
concept of resonance, generally. The first is to think of ple. I am not claiming that that particular conception is
resonance as just meaning harmony, as if I’m saying that anthropological, not even the relationship to our children,
it would be great when everything is harmonious or con- art, or nature. Whether you believe that there is a voice of
sonant. But I always say that total harmony or total con- nature, that is not anthropological, but a specification that
sonance is not resonance at all, because for resonance developed out of this basic anthropological need. Again, I
you need different voices. The second is the conceptual think it is the same as when you think about language; if
overstretch, the idea that all relationship are interpreted you reflect upon our language then of course you would
as resonance. For example, if I punch you and you punch have to make a lot of historical qualifications depending on
me back and we say: ‘Well, that’s resonance.’ I always em- whether you are talking about Swahili or German, but you
phasize that this is not resonance: resonance is tied to an can still talk about a basic need or capacity for language. I
openness, of wanting to be affected and answering, so it is can’t really see why you couldn’t do both, thereby avoiding
a very specific form of relationship. the two pitfalls that you were rightfully pointing to.
Thus far I am convinced that there is good evidence
on all levels that human beings—and maybe this even goes TL/RC: On the one hand, it seems that you are aiming to
for all mammals—are forced, by everything they are, to de- develop a notion of alienation and resonance that is not
velop such relationships. As Merleau-Ponty writes: I start reducible to a merely subjective experience. On the other
with the sense that something is there, something is present. hand, your notion of resonance is still experience-based—
This is the first element of awareness and you can actually when you claim that alienation is overcome if the subjects
notice this when you wake up from very deep sleep or from in question have the experience that the (natural and so-
being unconscious. Before you know who you are and what cial) world resonates with them. However, again from a
the world is you have this sensation that there is something, critical theory perspective, one could imagine that such
right? I think that for a human being without this sense it experiences of resonance are very much part and parcel
is totally inconceivable to develop relationships. So, I would of the most common forms of alienation. Do you end up
say yes, I am fully convinced that this is the basic category. having to claim that the neoliberal subjects who, say, really
It is similar to what Axel Honneth writes with re- feel resonance when they go to their Yoga class or have a
gard to recognition: human beings need recognition of break in Bali or go to the wine tasting in their local hipster
some sort. Or what people talk about with regard to the lan- bar (without having a purely instrumental relation to these
guage capacity of human beings. These conceptions have activities) know deep within themselves that this is not true
a similar structure to what I want to say about resonance. but simulated (and thus alienation-enhancing) resonance.
On a basic level, getting into resonance, developing a sense Your idea of simulated resonance is intriguing but it seems
of who you are and what the world is from moments, or that you then have to refer to objective criteria in order to
processes, of resonance, is something everyone is engaged distinguish actual from merely simulated resonance.
in. People need recognition and they need language, inde-
pendent of the kind of recognition or the exact language HR: Those are tricky points. On the deepest level, there is
they then speak. The latter is historically dependent. really a very difficult question: is resonance a psychological

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relation, something I experience; or is it ontological rela- difference, which calls on me to answer. Rührung is just
tion, something that is really going on between us. If it is about having a strong sensation within myself and I only
ontological, then it is somewhere out there; if it is psy- instrumentally use this Other. It is not encountering an
chological, then I feel if our conversation was resonant Other to which I then answer. What is also missing here
or not. I really want to say that it is more than psycho- is any sense of self-efficacy, this reaching out to the Other
logical, it is a kind of ‘in between’. Charles Taylor has and getting into contact with it and thereby being trans-
something similar in mind in his discussion of romantic formed. The vital element of resonance is tied to this en-
philosophy in terms of the ‘inter space’. You could also counter in which I experience a transformation of myself,
think of Bruno Latour’s work. Resonance cannot just be I experience this other, which transforms me. And if I
understood along constructivist lines—as if we could con- only have an oasis, e.g. if I meditate once in a while, then
struct or project it—it is a kind of ‘in between’. As for the this feels totally empty, and this is not resonance. I call
neoliberal subject and stimulated resonance: the feeling it an echo-chamber. Probably the same holds for the trip
is that there is something wrong with going to Bali or the to Bali: it does not really involve getting into contact with
yoga class, but the question is: what is wrong? Let’s take something that truly transforms you, it is just for about
the example of an ideal neoliberal manager going to the forgetting the instrumental stance I am forced to take for
yoga class and to Bali on holiday, about whom I think I a limited time.
can make two points. The first concerns the basic disposi-
tion, the disposition towards the world within which you TL/RC: So, it is also instrumental in that it allows you to
operate and which is not just of your own choosing. In momentarily get away from yourself?
the case of the neoliberal, what he does for a living in the
business sphere is characterized by a very instrumental HR: Yes, exactly, this is what I call the reification of reso-
stance towards the world and this is at odds with reso- nance, the idea that you try to use these moments in order
nance. Why? Because getting into resonance involves a to be more successful, but the thing is that then your basic
kind of not knowing when it happens, not knowing what disposition towards the world, the way that you relate to
the outcome will be. So, it requires a kind of openness, it, remains instrumental, optimizing, speeding up. In this
which is a different disposition from the instrumental, op- case you use remnants, or simulations or echo-chambers in
timizing, efficiency-oriented rationalizing stance that you order to be even more successful.
normally have to take. The basic stance you take towards
the world as a neoliberal manager is one of reification 3 Resonance
and then you seek to counterbalance it through what I TL/RC: Moving on to the theory of resonance, what also
call an oasis of resonance, like a yoga class. So, what is struck us as readers of Benjamin is that in your definition
wrong with the yoga class? The main problem concerns of resonance you speak of an instant, a ‘momentum’, an
the difference between resonance and sentimentality. I Aufblitzen, which could remind one of both the concept of
use the German term Rührung and develop it out of the aura and of now-time. Do you indeed consider this expe-
work of Helmuth Plessner. Another example would be rience of resonance as so limited in time, and, if so, why?
watching Hollywood blockbusters like Titanic, which are How do these instances relate to the more durable relations
very melodramatic. Let’s say I cry at the end and some- and axes of resonance that you refer to (do they give rise to
one says to me: ‘Oh, that’s what you mean by resonance.’ them, keep them dynamic, undermine them?). And, follow-
I would respond that this is not exactly what I mean by ing up on that, do these ‘instances’ suffice to counter (or
resonance, this is Rührung, which does not involve en- answer) the problem of acceleration and the alienation that
countering some Other that really has this also irritating they somehow answer to?

The Future of the New Beyond the Echo Chamber

42 43
HR: This is a very difficult question too. In my book I do means being completely in the here and now. When you
not really focus on the temporality of resonance, which is really experience resonance, the temporal horizon rather
maybe surprising given my earlier work. It is true that I widens, it extends; it is the co-presence of the past and the
write that strong experiences of resonance are only mo- future. Once you are in resonance with something it is like
mentary, and that this kind of dynamic cannot be put on the past speaks to you and through you into the future. It
a permanent basis. But we are speaking of experiences of is this extending that makes it feel as if time is running
resonance—and they are unpredictable. If you look at mu- through you. This is different from the examples of the
sic, which has been a paradigm case for me, but also at Bali vacation and the yoga class as in these cases one just
religious experiences or love, I think there is empirical ev- wants to be in the here and now and block out what one did
idence for the claim that people who go to concerts a lot yesterday and what one will do tomorrow—this is not the
only really have a strong experience one out of ten or even temporal structure of resonance. In resonance the past and
a hundred times, but it is strong enough to go back to it, the present are meaningfully reconnected.
to search for it again and again. So, it is a momentary ex-
perience but you develop it along axes and axes are more TL/RC: You make it very clear that ‘resonance’ isn’t the
stable, so if music is important to you, you keep going to same as harmony, and you clearly delineate resonance
concerts and you have at least memories, reminiscences of from concepts such as Eigentlichkeit or authenticity. At
resonance, which can permanently confirm your axes of the same time, the very metaphor of resonance, the usu-
resonance. al meaning of the term, might be seen as working against
Rituals actually play a strong role in creating con- you. After all, something only ‘resonates’ if it is of the same
ditions for resonance. In religion this is very clear but also kind, think of musical tones—this could be seen as the fun-
in rock concerts or in football stadiums there is a very damental problem of the allegory of the tuning forks you
clear ritualistic sense. This is something that we want to use to clarify your notion of resonance. What space does
explore in Erfurt, in a research group called ‘Ritual and this leave for truly dissonant voices?
Resonance’. The idea is that this brings you into a certain
disposition. I call these preconditions axes and these axes HR: For me at least the greatest insight to gain from the
are developed over time because they also create the ex- concept of resonance is a way to overcome the aporetic
perience that resonance might happen and your sense of dualism between authenticity and identity theories on the
self-efficacy. The other very important element is the dispo- one hand, and post-structural difference theories on the
sition. You can only get into these moments of resonance other. Resonance is not about authenticity in the sense that
or relationships of resonance, if your disposition towards I must be true to myself or that it confirms my authenticity,
the world is resonant: being open to hearing the call, being because it involves transformation: it is feeling called upon
affected, and you have to have the expectation that you can by something different that transforms me. In that sense
reach out. What I call self-efficacy is not exactly psycholog- it fits difference theories but I would argue that it is not
ical. It concerns reaching out and making these moments mere difference, because I have to develop my own voice
possible and this disposition is something that you can and answer the call. So, I would say that it is exactly in
actually work on and that is more temporarily extended. between those two. There are elements of dissonance, or
So, you have axes of resonance, which are established over difference, that cannot be overcome. But I cannot enter
time and need a certain form of stability, and you have into a relation of resonance if, for example, it is a thought,
dispositions of resonance, and both involve long-term sta- or an experience, that is so different that I cannot relate to
bility. In comparison, experiences of resonance are tem- it. Of course, there are also those moments of dissonance
porary. Still, I think it is wrong to assume that resonance that are tied to what I call repulsion. In my view there is no

The Future of the New Beyond the Echo Chamber

44 45
negative resonance. There is a very clear distinction, and afraid of the world, you might say ‘I do not want Muslims
you can really feel it immediately or reproduce it phenome- in my neighbourhood’ but it might also be that you have a
nologically, between repulsion and resonance. tight community, e.g. in a small village, and when someone
Take the example of a discussion: if we all agree enters you cannot form this resonant relationship because
completely, there is no resonance; if the interlocutor always of the kind of community you are in.
agrees, there is no resonance at all, it is just a monologue.
Resonance is not consonance. With my best friends I al- HR: Empirically this seems wrong to me. There is research
ways argue all the time about everything; it involves hear- that indicates that anti-immigration feelings are not strong-
ing a voice that says something different and that makes est in tight knit, old communities like peasant villages, but
me answer, a process whereby we both shift and transform in the commuter neighbourhoods of the suburbs of big cit-
into something else. The situation might turn if you say, ies where people do not know each other, where they do
for example, ‘You are just a racist idiot’—then closure oc- not have a community. That is exactly the point where they
curs and I no longer want to be affected. That is a different may feel that they don’t have a voice or collective self-effi-
stance towards the world and I want to conceptually dis- cacy and therefore they turn against strangers. If you have
tinguish these two elements: one is repulsion and the other a well-functioning community, then taking in strangers is
is resonance. Resonance is not agreement; resonance is in a rather welcome opportunity. If you have a fear of losing
between consonance and dissonance. Of course, there are the community, that means you have the fear of losing your
moments of dissonance that are repulsion and that are not own voice. In such a situation you cannot answer, then you
resonance at all, but in the hermeneutical tradition there is are overwhelmed and you feel that you have to give in to
this thought—maybe first articulated by Gadamer, but you the foreigners. That is exactly the anxiety that fuels anti-im-
find it in Taylor as well—that an adequate answer to the migration feelings all over the world. If you feel you have a
claim ‘I don’t understand’ could be ‘then change yourself in strong community, a vibrant life, then you are not so con-
order to understand it’. Resonance is natural realization of cerned that you have to give in. Of course, there might be
this thought. It’s not so much ‘I have to change myself’ but a point at which you lose your own voice but this is far
rather ‘let yourself be transformed by the other’ by getting from the situation we’re in. If you have the experience of
in touch with it. The more you already are in a resonant a resonant community then it is not a problem to take in
relationship with the world, the more your capacity widens foreigners.
to really get into contact with difference. Difference can As for ideology, in my view political ideologies are
become more different and it can increase if you have the only successful if they find an axis of resonance—they have
expectation of entering into a resonant relationship. Then to touch on this somehow. But of course, ideologies very
you find it interesting to encounter a Muslim or a Buddhist soon become a kind of echo chamber. Most ideologies live
or whatever it is. But if you have the feeling—and I read this on resentment and resentment is the opposite of resonance.
in the current political situation—if you feel non-resonant- You even see this in the gestures, in the faces, you hear it
ly connected to the world, if you feel alienated then your in the voices: the whole attitude is repulsive towards the
stance is ‘I do not want these Muslims here’, then you are world. Therefore, I think that we can distinguish between a
closed to difference. I really think the political problem resonant attitude and an ideology which is not resonance,
here might be tied to a lack of self-efficacy. which is a kind of echo chamber based on resentment.

TL/RC: Doesn’t ideology also often work through reso- TL/RC: You also describe resonance as a kind of emotive
nance? Creating a group identity or a community can also response. When discussing recognition, you point out that
be a way of creating resonance. So of course, when you are resonance is closer to Durkheim’s notion of collective ef-

The Future of the New Beyond the Echo Chamber

46 47
fervescence, a kind of collective ecstasy in which members ology of complete harmony, which is not resonance at all.
of the collective undergo a process of fusion that is largely It is a total echo chamber based on repulsion. Jan-Werner
beyond their cognitive and deliberative capacities and you Müller gets this right with his idea that the populists claim
also invoke Weber’s notion of charisma. Turning to the ‘We are the people and no one else’. ‘Whoever is not of our
politics of resonance, this does sound very familiar with re- opinion, is not the people.’ This is so blatantly non-reso-
gard to current right-wing populism and rather scary. How nant that I don’t think it makes any sense to claim that
do you avoid sliding into an anti-rationalist collectivist pol- right-wing populists create resonance.
itics that leaves little room for dissenting voices? Can the Resonance is a multi-layered phenomenon and I in-
desire for resonance that you ascribe to citizens—including sist that it is not just cognitive. In contrast to Habermas’
to the infamous Wutbürger [angry citizens]—really be an and Forst’s emphasis on reasons, and in line with William
emancipatory energy? Connolly, there is a visceral and almost bodily quality to
politics. So, resonance is something that is always embod-
HR: This question has many layers. To start with, I think ied, it is emotional but it is not dissolved from the cognitive
that in the case of the Wutbürger there is a lack of reso- element. Resonant relationships therefore also create reso-
nance. The desire for resonance creates the Wutbürger and nance between rationality and emotivity and the embodied
even right-wing populist movements. They feel that they side. So there has to be some kind of rational control and
are not heard and not seen: they are not resonantly con- what I tried to develop in the book is the notion that you
nected with politics. That is why they say all the time that can only be in resonance with something that is connected
the politicians do not hear them, they do not speak to them to a strong evaluation: something which you are convinced
or for them. This is a form of political alienation. Right- is truly important to relate to and therefore there is of
wing populists give the promise of resonance: ‘We hear course a kind of rational check. You cannot get into reso-
you, we see you, we give you a voice.’ This is the case with nance with something you cannot rationally explain as at
Brexit, Trump, the AfD in Germany. But there is a double least potentially valuable.
fallacy of right-wing populism. The first fallacy is to say
that alienation is created by immigrants. If you look at East TL/RC: To conclude, here are two more questions on art.
Germany or Eastern Europe, for example, there are hardly First, you already mentioned the notion of ‘oases of reso-
any immigrants. To believe that your deep sentiment of al- nance’, amidst an accelerating world, and in the book you
ienation is caused by a tiny minority of Muslims is totally also suggest that art might be a possible example. Would
idiotic, it is not a rational explanation. The second fallacy the early critical theorists agree? Think of Marcuse’s no-
is even worse and consists in the promise of a ‘resonance’ tion of the ‘affirmative character of culture’, which allows
that is not resonance, but fusion. you to temporarily turn away from bourgeois society but
I like Erich Fromm’s theory because he saw that al- thereby also affirms it and conditions it in a way, or of
ienation is the deepest fear of modern individuals. There Adorno’s rejection of art-as-Sonntagsvergnügen [Sunday en-
are two ways to overcome it. One is through fusion: I want tertainment]. Should art offer an ‘oasis’ and thereby affirm
to overcome my isolation and fuse with all the others who the existing order or should it not offer an ‘oasis’ at all?
are like myself and that is what right-wing populism real-
ly promises. The idea is exactly the opposite of getting in HR: This is very interesting question. At least I have the
touch with the Other or some Other. Right-wing populism intuition that I do not share Adorno’s opinion here; as I
lives off this idea of being ‘against’. Those who support it said, there are moments of art that are more like Plessner’s
do not want to hear anyone except themselves and this is Rührung, the sentimentality that I described earlier. It al-
normally just one voice—that of the leader. This is an ide- lows us to feel good for a moment. But I also think there is

The Future of the New Beyond the Echo Chamber

48 49
art that is neither ‘high’ nor ‘low’ culture and which is not you give for this. On the other hand, isn’t this a somehow
about having fun or being entertained—I think of my heroes limited (romantic or early modernist) notion of art? How
Pink Floyd—but where ‘something is going on’ or ‘some- about conceptual art, pop-art, and so on? Is it necessar-
thing comes across’. If it is only about having fun then it is ily the goal and/or responsibility of art to offer us ‘reso-
like Plessner’s sentimentality … like the Hollywood block- nant’ experiences? Aesthetically it seems a bit dubious to
buster after which I want to cry or feel good or sad. This claim, as you do in the book, that atonal music, abstract
is not about resonance. Art should insist on the transform- art, and fragmented literary narrative show how art can
ative element of resonance. You see it even in rock music, lose its force—how is that more than just an expression of
where a lot of people say that after listening to a record or your own aesthetic preference? So, in line with that, how
going to a concert they have become a different person. Of does the concept of resonance here relate to other aesthetic
course, this is only a rhetoric way of speaking but there is concepts, such as the sublime, shock, the abject, and the
some moment of truth here, which points to the transform- like, because those can also be very strong aesthetic experi-
ative effect that art needs to preserve. If it becomes only an ences, right? Perhaps an aesthetic experience doesn’t need
‘oasis’ like the Hollywood blockbuster then we are lost. to be resonant.
If you really resonate with something then the result
is unpredictable. It is not that you are better off on Monday. HR: I disagree. I would say that the experiences of the sub-
So even though you might go to the museum on Sunday, lime or shock moments are moments of resonance, because
just in order to counterbalance the alienating experiences you encounter something that is irreducible. Strong evalu-
you have during the rest of the week, there may be this ation can arise out of the experience—there is something,
one moment, this experience of touching that has a kind of even in the experience of shock, that gets through to me
excess meaning, which gives you a sense of a different way and even if I don’t understand it, it is a voice speaking that
of relating to the world. If you don’t have such experiences may have something to say. Someone will have to convince
that reinvigorate your sense of the possibility of a different me that in some contemporary art, like atonal music, there
way of relating to the world, then you’re really in a difficult is still this element of experience. Overall, my reflections
situation. on art and aesthetic experience focus on the receptive side:
In the book I claim that even on the everyday level how do we experience these works of art? In the moment
of the shop floor work is an axis of resonance. People love of strong evaluation, we do not just say that an artwork is
to work and they feel self-efficacy in their work. Even in the innovative, or original, but that there is something there
industrial factory workers say they have a sense of doing that is truly important in itself and that speaks to us. I have
good work or making things well, and then they feel the the feeling that this sense is lost in many forms of contem-
counter pressures of being fast, efficient, and cheap. It is ex- porary art.
actly in this resonant experience of work that you develop
a counterforce, even a bodily felt resistance. My colleagues
in industrial sociology are really struck by this, that people
on the factory level say that the problem is that they are not
allowed to do their work properly, to do good work. Even
under alienating conditions there is therefore this moment
of resonance in art as well as in work.

TL/RC: You write that much art is an expression of aliena-


tion, and Schubert’s Winterreise is one of the best examples

The Future of the New Beyond the Echo Chamber

50 51
Notes Reference
1  ranslated in English as Social
T —— Rosa, Hartmut. 2010. Acceleration and
Acceleration: A New Theory of Alienation: Towards a Critical Theory of
Modernity (2013). Late-modern Temporality. Aarhus: NSU
2 This interview was conducted in Press.
January 2018, on the occasion of the —. 2016. Resonanz: Eine Soziologie der
seminar How to Slow Down Life without Weltbeziehung. Berlin: Suhrkamp.
Stagnating Society: Resonance in an
Accelerating World, organized by the
University of Humanistic Studies
(UvH) in Utrecht. The authors would
like to thank Fernando Suarez Muller
for inviting us to do the interview, as
well as Noelle Richardson for
transcribing it.

The Future of the New

52
All in Good Time
Carolyn F. Strauss
Some mysteries can only be penetrated with a relaxed, wrought so much disruption and discord on our planet. Taken as
unquesting mental attitude. Some kinds of understanding an absolute, the very concept implies separation, even hierarchy,
simply refuse to come when they are called. … Knowing a privileging of one position over another, thereby perpetuating a
emerges from, and is a response to, not-knowing … the narrative of fragmentation that fails to acknowledge the vast web
seedbed in which ideas germinate and responses form. … of relations (living and non-living) in which human lives and ac-
To undertake this kind of slow learning, one needs to feel tivity are embedded. Indeed, when we take up a wider, more holis-
comfortable being ‘at sea’ for a while.’ tic, and non-anthropocentric lens—embracing instead complexity,
cooperation, and interdependence—we easily come to realize the
Guy Claxton, Hare Brain Tortoise Mind (1997)1 shallowness of our (predominantly Western) notions of ‘value’,
‘efficiency’, ‘productivity’, ‘growth’, ‘progress’, and ‘success’. Like
Being at Sea ‘the new’, they are concepts that, in the words of multispecies fem-
As I begin this essay, I’m sitting at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, inist theorist Donna Haraway, ‘sap our capacity for imagining and
breathing in time with the rhythm of the waves washing in and out. caring for other worlds’.2
With each breath, my nose fills with the scent of wild plants, the By contrast, Slow research aims to inspire both philosoph-
strong odour of kelp, and that distinct smell that is sea air. Looking ical and practical pathways for recuperating the pieces of a frag-
out, I try to imagine the dense and immense marine ecology that is mented culture, while also helping to re-locate our existence in
just beyond my immediate awareness, much of its depths unreach- balance with and within other living systems and more-than-hu-
able by humans, the majority of its life forms unknown to our kind. man time spans. Working with a rich mix of collaborators from
It is an apt analogy for the vast reservoir of ‘not-knowing’ that Guy a wide range of disciplines, our platform promotes Slow creative
Claxton refers to in the quote above and feels like a good place to processes (and the tangible traces they sometimes yield) as sites
begin tracking my thoughts about ‘the new’. of disruption, dialogue, and deepening of understandings. In con-
My reflections on this topic are based on my personal and trast with linear design processes, ours is an approach that is less
professional experiences at Slow Research Lab, the creative re- deliberate and more intuitive; less predictable, because more im-
search and curatorial platform that I founded in 2003 and contin- aginative; less rational and more poetic; less conclusive and more
ue to direct to this day. friction-full, because more inclusive. All of this is, in our view,
quite valuable. First because it equips people to be more at ease
Broadly speaking, ‘Slow’ theory and practice respond to the with the increasing uncertainty and precarity of contemporary
ever-accelerating physical, social, and technological landscape, of- life. And also because the extreme openness it requires is condu-
fering alternative visions and variant rhythms for reflecting upon cive to the more caring culture that we, and the worlds we might
and (re-)imagining humanity’s place in a complex-interdependent imagine, so desperately need.
world. At Slow Research Lab, as in Claxton’s book Hare Brain Tor- We may never be able to fathom the depths of the sea, but
toise Mind, we use the term ‘Slow’ primarily to emphasize that a we can be willing to embrace the unknowable, to go with its flow,
wider spectrum of tools and knowledge are available to us and that and in so doing find ourselves transported to an expanded realm
cultivating ‘Slower’ ways of knowing and getting-to-know would of being in and of the fabric of (co)existence.
serve our species well at this time in our history. The aim of our
platform, therefore, is not so much to find an antidote to accelera- A bog doesn’t give up its secrets easily, but it calls you to
tion as it is to offer examples of—and fertile ground for growing—al- uncover them nevertheless. The lure of a bog-pool, which
ternatives to the dominant ideologies and structures of today. beckons you over to look down on its bright mirrored sur-
From a Slow perspective, the idea of ‘the new’ does not feel face, the perfect blue of the sky an antidote to the relentless
particularly helpful to contemporary discourse, because of the black of the peat. But when you stand over it (if you make
way it contributes to the unsustainable cultural practices that have it that far) all reflections disappear; there is only you, and

The Future of the New All in Good Time

56 57
the dark. Reach down with your fingers if you dare. Who array of roses that tumble down the mountainside; well into their
knows what you might touch? Who knows what mysteries 1980s and still in love.
you might uncover? To love a bog is to love all that lies Everywhere I went, people welcomed me into their homes,
buried beneath the surface, buried in its rich, ripe flesh. shared their work and ideas with me, fed me, gave me rides to
Sharon Blackie, Love Letter to a Bog (2016)3 where I needed to go next, extended invitations to come stay again
and proposals to collaborate. That I was in so many places I’d
Emerging Slow-ly never visited, encountering contexts and communities I’d never
My perch by the Pacific Ocean where this began offered a moment met before has the scent of ‘new-ness’, to be sure, and yet that con-
of pause, an inflection point, in the midst of a densely-packed se- cept feels inadequate to describe the richness of my experiences.
ries of experiences, touching down on three continents in just un- Rather, as I was compelled forward by a combination of curiosity
der two months. As antithetical to Slowness that such a journey and intuition, and ushered along by the kindness of others, I felt
may seem, it was brimming with Slow qualities and resonances— not that I was experiencing something ‘new’, but rather that I was
not least the synchronicity of chance encounters and tremendous making contact with something very old: a deep sense of belong-
generosity of others (including financial support) without which ing, of being caught up in the world, and from there the possibility
these travels would not have been possible.4 Like reaching into the for a blossoming of awareness, for something as-yet-undiscovered
dark and mysterious depths of mythologist Sharon Blackie’s peat to be revealed, for emergence.
bog described in the quote above, through each encounter with
people and place, I found myself slipping steadily further into the The word ‘emergence’ derives from sixteenth-century Middle
thickness of life. French émerger and directly from Latin emergere. Both describe a
bringing to the light, a coming forth or coming into view, a rising
I spent the better part of the first month traveling through the high up. In botany, an ‘emergent’ is a plant whose root system grows
desert of the southwestern United States, where I met artists and under water while the shoots, leaves and flowers grow above the
scientists, ecologists and technologists, geologists and stargazers. surface—much like how ‘new’ ideas and insights are supported by
What took me to this area was a four-day conference I was invited the vast store of tacit knowledge that all human individuals carry
to contribute to: a convergence of researchers in the sciences, arts, around with them. In contrast with certain dominant (Western
and literature who are in one way or another exploring diverse fac- and modern) conceptions of ‘the new’, the concept of ‘emergence’
ets of time, including biological, technological, geological, human, firmly embeds that which is ‘rising up’ in a thick web of visible and
and nonhuman, and more.5 That made for intellectually rigorous invisible relations. It is a function of complexity through which un-
days surrounded by academics and their research, listening, ana- expected, not-yet-known forms or experiences are born. Growth
lyzing, debating, learning. After the conference ended, I set off on and transformation are held as latent potential—that which has yet
my own to points north and east. Those further travels included to be uncovered, released, activated.
hours on end spent in silence, immersed in magnificent natural Sharon Blackie’s peat bog is deemed murky, inhospitable,
landscapes—another form of listening and learning. I enjoyed an and uncooperative by reluctant explorers who search for its ‘value’
intense and inspiring day with students studying humanity’s his- only in terms of its perceived usefulness to humans or so-called
tory of creative relationship to the land,6 I stayed overnight at the ‘real estate’. But for those who are willing to probe further, stories
utopian ‘urban laboratory’ Arcosanti and had three days with an and mysteries of rich and resilient being begin to murmur. In the
elder in the sacred lands of the Navajo nation. Finally, I was invited words of a Slow collaborator, the Dutch interdisciplinary artist
to spend a long weekend off the grid, very high in the mountains, Maria Blaisse:
hosted by a couple of homesteaders who have built their lives there
over nearly five decades, slowly and surely, while thinking and talk- We listen down to a deeper level that already knows a little
ing, making art, raising their children, and cultivating a stunning more than we do, and then there is a connection. All the

The Future of the New All in Good Time

58 59
possibilities are there. We can enter at the smallest part.
Where our expectations are small, but we are awake and between Heidegger’s philosophy of Dasein—‘being’ (or literally
listening. The discovery begins.7 ‘being there’) and the evolving nature of the self—and archaeo-
logical excavation. Edgeworth describes that meticulous, step-
In the midst of beings as a whole an open place oc- by-step process conducted by archaeologists in terms not only
curs. There is a clearing, a lighting… of ‘unearthing’, but also of ‘unfolding’: ‘There is an unfolding of
Only this clearing grants and guarantees to us hu- material … of the already known and the half-expected but also of
mans a passage to those beings that we ourselves are surprising and contradictory evidence—even sometimes the com-
not, and access to the being that we ourselves are. pletely unknown.’
Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ Here too emergence is a key concept. ‘There is an ever-pres-
(1935)8 ent feeling of imminence’, Edgeworth says, ‘of something about to
happen, of things-yet-to-emerge shortly to come to the surface.’10
Disruptive Unfolding But he takes it further, arguing that in this process there also lies
Another one of our recent collaborators, archaeologist and de- the potential for a bursting into consciousness of something whol-
sign educator Uzma Rizvi, tells the story of the moment when as ly unexpected, whereby ‘objects and patterns from other cultural
an undergraduate she decided to pursue the field of archaeology. worlds break into our social and political space.’ Using Heideg-
As a bevel-rimmed bowl from Mesopotamia was passed around ger’s metaphor, he says: ‘Something that was previously buried
the classroom from person to person, her fingertips slipped into comes crashing into the light.’11 (Heidegger referred to this as be-
the grooves carved out by the fingers of the potter who had made ing ‘struck by openness’.) And, having experienced this firsthand
the artefact 5000 years earlier. In sensing the tangible presence as a practicing archaeologist, he is emphatic about the transform-
of that ‘other’ body, she discovered that her own presence trans- ative power of those unsettling moments for the one who is doing
ported across a vast expanse of space and time. In 2016, Rizvi the ‘digging’, stating, ‘It is through encountering such emergent
elaborated further on this in her essay ‘Decolonization as Care’, and unfolding entities—with all the resistance, recalcitrance, and
where she calls for an intersectional approach to contemporary sheer otherness that they sometimes present—that we truly en-
identity: counter and transform ourselves.’

… in the construction of … knowledge, once care is invest- Artists and philosophers alike have long been fascinated by rup-
ed in the landscape, a different kind of research emerges. ture or disruption as a means through which the status quo is chal-
The moment you touch a landscape, the moment you touch lenged and subverted, and whereby alternative perspectives and
the soil, the moment you think about mudbrick, or work forms of living are revealed. More recently, many more have taken
with mudbrick, you know it, and know it intimately. There up the charge not only to disrupt, but also to embrace—and thereby
is a different kind of reflexivity and criticality that enters leverage—the disruptive forces that surround us. One of the most
into our understanding of ourselves. It is almost as if the articulate and persuasive purveyors of that position is Donna Har-
mudbrick makes it okay not to know everything about it, away (already referred to earlier here), whose most recent book,
but rather, it invites us to take it as another intersubjective Staying with the Trouble, was one of my companions along the jour-
reality and get to know it over time.9 ney I’ve been describing. Haraway points to the ways that the con-
ditions of uncertainty and real danger posed by the times we live in
Not surprisingly, the field of archaeology offers many such useful also offer an opportunity for collective expansion. She compares
lessons and metaphors for knowing (and getting to know) our- humanity, the larger systems in which we are embedded, and the
selves as beings intricately interwoven within spatial and tem- crises we face to compost: a ‘tangled knot’ of diverse bodies that
poral relations. I seized upon the Heidegger quote above in an melt and merge and heat up. A rotten pile-up that, as it decompos-
essay by archaeologist Matt Edgeworth that explores the parallels es, holds the key to recomposing our world together. ‘We require

The Future of the New All in Good Time

60 61
each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations’, she as winter was taking hold on the side of the planet where I nor-
says, ‘We become with each other or not at all.’12 mally live.
Haraway was on many people’s minds and lips at the dense- And so it was that I made my way to the Open City (la
ly-packed research conference I described earlier here. Among Ciudad Abierta) in Ritoque, Chile: a site of artistic and architectur-
the many people I encountered there was Brett Zehner, a grad- al experimentation established in 1970 by a group of architects,
uate student in theatre arts and performance studies at Brown artists, engineers, and poets. On a 270-hectare site, situated in the
University. Zehner is investigating ‘the performative dimensions dunes between sea and sky and mountains, architectural forms
of atmospheric sciences and the power of geophysical forces in emerge and grow (and sometimes disappear again) in continuous
choreographing the social’.13 Noting that an increasing number of dialogue with the inhabitants, with the elements, and with time.
weather scientists who chase storms also are trained as first re- Operated as a cooperative, with no private ownership, it is a dy-
sponders, Zehner believes that instances of natural disaster can namic, open, collaborative system of people and place with the
both force a reinvention of human thought and serve as test sites fundamental goal of discovering new forms of living, working,
for new forms of living together; specifically, he proposes that dis- and studying. As I traipsed through the dunes one morning at
aster events offer ‘temporal breaks’ within which a more conscious sunrise, I was moved by the peaceful simplicity and yet amazing
and caring theatre of coexistence might play out—literally in the resiliency of this place, diligently maintained at a remove from
eye of the storm. The chaser, he says, is not a ‘witness’, but rather a contemporary society in order to, in the words of its founders,
‘with-ness’, joining with the storm in an embodied intimacy. ‘carry out the tasks that we consider most important for building
Whether or not Zehner is responding directly to Haraway’s our world’.15
prompt, his is a variety of critical and creative project that makes The philosophy and practices of the Open City are the ba-
the kind of ‘trouble’ she insists on: one with inherently unstable sis for the curriculum of the School of Architecture and Design of
foundations, without known or prescribed narratives, steeped in the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso (PUCV), located
discomfort and uncertainty. These are the ideal conditions, Hara- 20 km down the coast in the city of Viña del Mar. In addition to
way would say, for the kind of ‘generative friction’ through which actively engaging at the Open City site, a central part of the cur-
processes of emergence, unfolding, and becoming are enabled: riculum is an embodied practice called the travesía: a ‘voyage of
like compost that steams and stinks until it eventually gives way unveiling’ achieved by crossing through a given area of land over
to nutrients and rich, fertile soil. a period of two weeks or more. (The first travesía, performed by
the Open City’s founders, was longer, covering a distance of 5,000
cross the borders of your origins kilometres.)
feel change The travesía is a creative wandering, a Slow and deep im-
lose track of time mersion in landscape, as well as an ‘improvisational theatre of
leave comfort building’16 undertaken by students and teachers of the school each
open up to unknown plains year. As they explore sites across the South American continent,
with all your senses… participants are invited to shed their preconceptions of what a
Travesia Paraiba Brasil (2017), e[ad] PUCV14 given place might be and instead seek to ‘enter’ the landscape and
its conditions in a more primal way, thereby re-encountering the
A Return to Not-knowing land in its pre-colonial sovereignty. Each journey is punctuated
In the midst of my travels in North America, I received an ex- by ‘poetic acts’ (actos poeticos), which include experimentation
traordinary, last-minute invitation to deliver a talk at a confer- with language, the body, and the erection of physical structures.
ence in Santiago de Chile. With this stroke of opportunity, a few Those acts, like the intentionality of the archaeologist’s trowel
weeks later I found myself on a different continent, in a different referenced earlier, are what drive the people and their project
hemisphere, in a city where purple flowers filled the trees even forward. In the words of one of the school’s founders, ‘The act

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62 63
engenders the form; like a pen stroke which, put to the light, ori- Not to escape or shy away from the crises we face today, but rath-
ents the normal indifference of the directions.’17 In other words, er to carve out much-needed time and space in which to nurture
the agency of the participants—which may include the decision more holistic perspectives in relation to those challenges and an
not to act—has direct physical and perceptual consequences, and expanded palette of tools with which to respond to them.
possibly even leads to longer-term shifts in the domain of culture On the opening page of Staying with the Trouble, Donna
and knowledge. Haraway writes: ‘Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent
The travesía is a valuable model for all manner of creative response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled wa-
practice, not least in that its vibrancy and unpredictability are pred- ters and rebuild quiet places.’19 Our platform answers that call by
icated on risk and an insistence on what the Open City’s founders facilitating spaces and encounters that are arenas for dialogue,
called ‘returning to not-knowing’ (volver a no saber). Again, the thereby serving (we hope) as seedbeds of emergence and catalysts
emphasis on discovery and imperative to maintain the aliveness of to transformation. Importantly, whether a retreat, a workshop, a
the quest have the quality of ‘newness’, but the fact of this return— performance, or some other form of gathering, we aim to offer
that every journey is ‘away and back’—defies the idea of separate- the kind of the ‘quiet places’ Haraway refers to. Spaces that invite
ness and even of chronology that ‘the new’ might imply. Rather, people to drop out of the consensus of ‘time’ and into a different
creative practice is a reflexive process that serves as an instrument tempo and/or temporality. Supportive environments in which to
for deepening into an existing system that is understood as inher- reflect critically and poetically. Safe havens in which to cultivate
ently dynamic: expanding and contracting, growing and chang- ways of being and becoming beyond absolutes and the ‘tyranny
ing, emerging and sometimes receding again, returning to zero. of certainty’.20
Human activity thus asserts itself not as a thing apart, but rather Perhaps most crucially, they are spaces to, in the words of
within an ever-evolving ecology, as a participant in its rhythmic our wonderful collaborator Alessandra Pomarico, ‘Practice prac-
and varied state of being. Like a dance, a continuous flow and in- tice practice!’21 Inclusion. Trust. Curiosity. Play. Intimacy. Empa-
terchange. Of intention and action. Of rigorous practice and poetic thy. Not-Knowing. Care. These are qualities of human being-ness
contact. Of becoming and then becoming still more. that all of us need to cultivate if we desire a more positive turn in
our individual and collective development. The practice of each
Situate yourself at the very end of the branch, one is like that tiny bud emerging at the tip of the willow branch,
the fragile new, fragile and tentative at first, but then slowly growing beyond mere
the fragile to become. promise to resilience; like the willow: graceful, flexible, and deep-
Johannes Dagsson, ‘In the Willows’ (2016)18 ly rooted.

Fragile Becomings (Becoming More) And finally, when we shift our modes of being toward practice,
With the quote above from Johannes Dagsson, I tentatively in- exposing ourselves to the myriad forms of ‘becoming’ it enables,
sert the word ‘new’ into this essay in a more forgiving light. His something essential opens up. We are gentler with ourselves
image of a delicate place where a tiny bud is emerging is one I’d and with others. We are more appreciative of what we have. We
like the reader to take away, along with the feelings it evokes of remember to move ourselves out of the centre of things every
tenderness and vulnerability, anticipation and promise, patience now and again, stepping aside to make way for whatever mys-
and right timing. tery might be unfurling in our midst. And we acknowledge our
A while back, I began thinking of our research platform agency and responsibility as active ingredients in a thick brew
as a ‘vessel’: both in the sense of a ship on which to navigate the of potentiality, with strong hints of what scholar Nathanael
seas of (Slow) possibility, and also in the sense of a container—a Mengist calls ‘alchemical presence’22—the kind of magic by vir-
space apart—that resides outside of the pressures of acceleration, tue of which vibrant life and possibilities for living are certain to
‘innovation’, and the so-called creative and cultural industries. emerge… Slow-ly.

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64 65
The deadline for completing this essay is looming, even as the Notes 11 Edgeworth argues elsewhere that
Heidegger’s notion of the clearing
text itself advocates processes of unfolding. And so here it is, still 1 Guy Claxton, Hare Brain Tortoise Mind likely was derived from archaeological
slightly unformed, with room for improvement and elaboration. (New York: Harper Perennial, 1997), discoveries of his day, which were said
pp. 6–9. also to have influenced his teacher
But now present, tangible, as a marker of my becoming, and an 2 Donna Haraway, Staying with the Edmund Husserl: ‘In reading and
artefact for your reflection. Trouble (Durham: Duke University absorbing Husserl’s writings, Heidegger
Press, 2016), p. 50. inevitably absorbed the half-buried,
3 Sharon Blackie, ‘Love Letter to a Bog’, largely tacit archaeological metaphors
All in good time. posted on www.caughtbytheriver.net/ embedded therein.’ Edgeworth, ‘The
2016/04/07/love-letter-to-a-bog-dr- Clearing’, p. 34.
sharon-blackie-irish-folklore/. 12 Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, p. 4.
4 It should be noted that I recognize the 13 Brett Zehner, ‘Machine Weather:
tremendous privilege of my position, Atmospheric Media, Storm Chasing,
and I certainly don’t take it for and The Counterperformativity of
granted. At the same time, I have the Earth’, in SLSA 2017 conference
come to trust in a different kind of programme (7 November 2017), p. 16.
‘economy’, one where my personal 14 ‘cruzar las fronteras de su origen |
investments of time and open sharing sentirse cambiar | perder la nocion del
of knowledge (without expectation tiempo |dejar la comodidad | abrirse
of reciprocation or compensation) a llanos desconocidos | con todos los
often come back later as wonderful sentidos’;
opportunities such as those I’m fragment of a poem collectively
describing here. written by students during a 2017
5 The Society for Literature, Science travesía in Paraiba Brazil led by
& the Arts 2017 programme ‘Out of Andrés Garcés. Translation by
Time’ took place at Arizona State Lotte van Gelder.
University in Tempe, Arizona (US), 15 Official statement of the legal entity
9–12 November. under which the cooperative is held,
See https://litsciarts.org/slsa17/. the Amereida Cultural Corporation
6 ‘Land Arts of the American West’ is a (Corporación Cultural Amereida).
programme within the Department of 16 Mary Ann Steane, David Jolly, and D.
Art and Art History at the University Luza, ‘Found in Translation?
of New Mexico. Reconfiguring the River Edge of
See https://landarts.unm.edu/ Cochrane, Patagonia, a Travesía
7 Maria Blaisse and Siobhán K. Cronin, Project of the Valparaíso School
‘Form as Passage: A “Pas de Deux” Led by David Jolly and David Luza,
between a Designer and a Dancer’, November 2013’, Brookes eJournal
in Slow Reader: A Resource for Design of Learning and Teaching Vol. Eight,
Thinking and Practice, ed. Ana Paula Issues 1 and 2 (April 2016).
Pais and Carolyn F. Strauss 17 ‘El acto engendra la forma; como
(Amsterdam: Valiz, 2016), el trazo que, al ser puesto a luz,
pp. 169–178, p. 173. orienta la normal indiferencia de las
8 Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of direcciones’; Alberto Cruz, quoted by
the Work of Art’ (1935), in The Vittorio di Girolamo, ‘Los Locos de
Continental Aesthetics Reader, ed. Clive Valparaíso’, qué pasa 18 October 1972,
Cazeaux (London and New York: p. 49.
Routledge, 2000), pp. 80–101, p. 95. 18 Jóhannes Dagsson, ‘In the Willows’, in
9 Uzma Z. Rizvi, ‘Decolonization as Willow Project, ed. Tinna Gunnarsdót-
Care’, in Slow Reader: A Resource for tir (Reykjavik: Partus Press, 2016),
Design Thinking and Practice, ed. Ana p. 15.
Paula Pais and Carolyn F. Strauss 19 Haraway, Staying with the Trouble, p. 1.
(Amsterdam: Valiz, 2016), 20 I first heard the phrase ‘tyranny of
pp. 85–95, p. 92. certainty’ in conversation with data
10 
Matt Edgeworth, ‘The Clearing: scientist Siobhán K. Cronin during a
Archaeology’s Way of Opening the 2016 Slow research retreat in
World’, in Reclaiming Archaeology: California.
Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, ed. 21 A lessandra Pomarico, ‘Situating Us’,
Alfredo González-Ruibal ( London in Slow Reader: A Resource for Design
and New York: Routledge, 2013), Thinking and Practice, ed. Ana Paula
pp. 33–43, p. 41. Pais and Carolyn F. Strauss (Amster-

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66 67
dam: Valiz, 2016), pp. 207–225, p. 221.
22 A
 s part of his doctoral thesis-in-process,
Nathanael Mengist is working on a
comparative history of alchemy. He
explains, ‘As an intensive, transgressive,
and sublimely ontoethical act, believing
in alchemy can reinvigorate our ways
of knowing and becoming.’

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68
Accelerating
the New
An interview with
Nick Srincek and
Alex Williams
Lietje Bauwens,
Wouter De Raeve, and
Alice Haddad
With ‘#Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics’ is able to give form to the conditions that will transfer their visions
(2013), Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams initiated a new leftist into reality.1
political movement based on a critique of what they call ‘folk
politics’—the contemporary left-wing leitmotiv that tries to tackle The #Accelerate Manifesto is both embedded in and a con-
global issues by scaling them down to tangible local actions, such tinuation of a long-lasting internal academic debate. With
as the collective occupation of public spaces or the promotion your manifesto you moved this discussion into the main-
of self-sufficiency as the holy grail for a sustainable lifestyle, en- stream. The manifesto’s format, as well as content, could in
compassing all kinds of local and horizontal resistance that stems many ways be regarded as a provocation vis-à-vis the intel-
from a desire to slow down as a medicine against an increasingly lectual elite—a critique on its exclusionary circle expressed
complex and faster Western society. through the desire to break down its walls and include a
In their publication Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and larger public.
a World without Work (2015), they develop their critique further. During the last century, one characterized by Grand
According to Srnicek and Williams, this kind of small-scale resist- Narratives and radical ideologies, the manifesto was a fa-
ance is not powerful enough to generate structural change; on the vourite method of avant-garde and underground movements
contrary, it rather appears as if those endorsing such an attitude to promote their ideas. What does your choice for the mani-
have given up hope for global progress and have therefore down- festo as format tell us about your attitude regarding the rela-
sized all their efforts to small-scale actions. ‘Folk politics’ aims tionship between underground and mainstream?
to bypass the authority of existing power structures and institu-
tions, but by doing so, its radicality is woefully neutralized and its Alex Williams: The reason we chose the manifesto in the
stronghold tactics—protest, disruption and local action—are con- first place was because of the powerful nature of the for-
tinually being absorbed by the system it seeks to resist. mat. The manifesto forces you to write in a firm, bold, and
In their manifesto, Srnicek and Williams suggest the idea polemic fashion; it doesn’t allow the expression of uncer-
of ‘acceleration’ as a counterproposal—an ‘accelerationist politics tainty nor of thorough qualification. In this sense, it stands
in line with modernity, abstraction, complexity, and technology’. in opposition to the current situation in academia, which,
For actual progress to persevere, the alienating mechanisms of even though encouraging criticality, also makes you hes-
capitalism must be ‘accelerated’. Not in order to destroy existing itant to draw any conclusions or proposals. The format
infrastructures, but rather to steer them into new directions. Is it of the manifesto is interesting in that it implies a sort of
possible to fathom existing power structures and understand how certainty because you are proclaiming and demanding
they can be adapted, changed, and appropriated? In other words: something. So, we had to dismiss all doubts and forms of
is it possible to overcome the existing hegemony? nuance and appear more confident than we actually were.
Accelerationism is not only debated in theoretical realms. A manifesto is indeed associated with grand ideas, wheth-
It has also percolated into artistic spheres struggling to define er artistic, political, or social. We believe that such ideas
their position vis-à-vis what should be considered as ‘new’. In a should be presented, even if they are still precarious and
century dominated by mainstream and pop culture, what does ‘the uncertain. There is a real need for these big ideas today.
new’ entail today? Following in—and overtaking—the footsteps of Both our books, #Accelerate and Inventing the Future, are
past avant-gardist movements and underground cultures, how can written in a way that aims to be accessible and understood
contemporary artistic practices be intrinsically subversive and without precognition on the subject. I think this is an im-
progressive? And, more specifically, does Accelerationism offer portant aspect of the transition from the underground to
relevant tools to interpret and reinvent such objectives anew to- the mainstream; presenting something that can be made
day? In Srnicek and Williams’ eyes, the arts have the potential your own without too much effort. The mainstream, in
to endorse a political role that, beyond its fictional characteristic, contrast to the underground, is within reach.

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Nick Srincek: The accelerate hash tag initially started as an political realm and draws on aesthetical and cultural un-
in-joke circulating among a small group of friends in Lon- derstandings fuelling a nostalgic discourse on authenticity
don. It was partly inspired by #Occupy and a series of other and de-scaling.
social movements that also began as hash tags, but the man- Nonetheless, I would be defensive of an artistic
ifesto was a shift from this in-joke towards something much and cultural, rather than a political underground because
bigger. We initially presumed it would interest a reasonably of how it could enable change by putting up barriers to a
self-selected audience. It only became more broadly spread broader culture. The creation of spaces where new, not just
when our friend Peter Wolvendale decided to put it online different, ideas can emerge is necessary. But this shouldn’t
and promote it drastically. One could say this was its transi- be sufficient; the generated criticism and imaginaries need
tion from the underground towards the mainstream, reach- to be deployed beyond their marginal communities to
ing a larger audience than we would ever have imagined. bring forth progress.
However, the continuous dispersion of information contrib-
utes to the vanishing of a clearly delineated underground. Isn’t such an underground where new ideas can emerge ex-
Everything becomes increasingly easier to access and thus actly the opposite of the accelerationist concept that political
becomes part of the mainstream much faster. action can only occur from the inside out—that there can be
no ‘outside’?
Is such a fading distinction between underground and main-
stream necessarily negative? From a political perspective, AW: Eventually, I believe that actual structural change can
you criticize folk politics as being the nostalgic leftist reac- only be accomplished from the inside out. Even though
tion to political complexity. With the term ‘folk politics’ you we criticize folk politics, it is a misunderstanding that we
refer to local and horizontal forms of resistance that fail to dismiss bottom-up practices altogether. All political action
adequately challenge and influence the institutions they are originates locally, but folk politics doesn’t manage to go
opposing, partly because their radicalism is being co-opted beyond this phase. We are for example invested in helping
by the power structures they try to defeat. Could we speak of grassroots movements to become more powerful by creat-
the reactionary attitude that seeks to protect a clear demar- ing a connection with top-down structures.
cation of the underground as ‘folk underground’, one could In order to do so it is important to bring people to-
say in the sense of a fight against change? gether and to make them aware of common interests, so
that they do have a common plan of action; to create forms
AW: We use the term ‘folk’ to indicate an aesthetic inter- of self-organization under the guidance of established, and
pretation of locality and immediacy. In other words, folk therefore more powerful, external organizations. How peo-
politics is the fetishization of the idea that it is possible to ple self-organize is in line with existing ideas and method-
create a separate ‘authentic’ space outside of capitalism. ologies that are available to them. By influencing this we
‘Folk underground’ could mean something similar: the can change how collectives arise and act. In a sense, an
longing to exist next to the mainstream culture, without ‘underground’ is needed that functions as a (temporary)
being able to really influence it. Since nowadays ‘under- place where ideas can arise. By this I do not mean a ‘pure’
ground’ is being fanatically deployed as a buzzword for outside where the forces of power structures are not appli-
commercial purposes, the effort to convulsively hold cable, but a space for experimentation within the already
on to the underground only concedes to the neo-liberal existing structures.
logic. In Inventing the Future, we talk about food politics
and the obsession with healthy, local, and slow food and Does the creation of such an underground within the main-
this exemplifies that the folk attitude isn’t limited to the stream require a change of discourse in which not locality

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and authenticity but rather a more pragmatic and large-scale Examining how this is achieved is useful; at the same
tactic is promoted? The obsession with an ‘anti-attitude’ is time, we know that some of these tactics are inherently
not only visible in politics but also in the art world—think of linked to power structures and class relations we want to
anti-fairs, DIY art collectives, an aversion to subsidies, and get away from. So, once again, it is as important to learn
the continuous search for new autonomous places. As we from mainstream and vertical strategies as to remain crit-
discussed earlier, a folk underground attitude appears that ical of them.
tries to resist existing institutions, organizations, and forms
of representation in the hope of being able to maintain a real You write in your manifesto: ‘The existing infrastructure is
‘outside’. Is it at all possible, and perhaps even necessary, not a capitalist stage to be smashed, but a springboard to
to create an underground that does try to resist mainstream launch towards post-capitalism’...
but dares to learn and benefit from its successes?
AW: Many different interpretations of Marxism argue that
AW: These are indeed examples of an admiration of mar- it is impossible to take on a critical position within capi-
ginality, as if it were a goal-in-itself. This attitude is rooted talism, and that capitalism should therefore be completely
partly in a fear on the side of folk politics to be eaten up destroyed before it becomes even possible to envision an
by the very vertical powers it aims to resist, and, secondly, alternative world. We view this as both not true and also
a fear of folk underground to make concessions towards practically inconceivable. We think capitalism is a series
the mainstream or the market. Such struggle, however, is of interlocking institutions, technologies, and beliefs that
extremely precarious. Hence, what we have to strive for is together work to reinforce the dominant system, but this
a more decisive fight where ideas aren’t merely adjusted can potentially be investigated and changed in order to af-
to the mainstream, but where the mainstream is on the fect capitalism in different stages of development from the
contrary shaped by these ideas. We argue in Inventing the inside out.
Future that folk politics can learn from neo-liberal tactics.
Actually, the first meetings by those who initially elabo- In No Speed Limit, Steven Shaviro criticizes the concrete-
rated neo-liberal ideas were completely underground. They ness of your plans and models, which according to him fun-
evolved from marginal, even despised, figures to those who damentally opposes the speculative character of accelera-
created an all-encompassing ideology. Such evolution by tion. In addition to speculation, pragmatism is also a prime
itself is already worth studying. This doesn’t mean their ingredient of accelerationism. Do we detect some sort of
methodology has to be copied as a whole but what interests contradiction here?
us in its analysis is how it aids in defining a long-term and
large-scale strategy. NS: Interpreting pragmatism and speculation as a contra-
diction is based on the binary metaphysical conception
NS: I think Adorno had a point when he was defining that the future is either completely uncertain or completely
the mainstream as serving commercial purposes, which is predictable. Reality, however, is more diffuse; the fact that
absolutely true of contemporary capitalism. But the main- we can perceive uncertain situations around us does not
stream doesn’t have to be defined in commercial purpos- mean that we cannot have precise ideas about what needs
es; it can be defined in a broader sense, a sheer quantity to be done and how it should be done. Climate change is
of people for example. If you’re in an artistic underground a good example; we have fundamental uncertainties about
position, you can still learn from distribution tactics, ecology and the climate system, but we can still make pre-
branding tactics, without necessarily having to wholesale dictions about, for example, how temperature will change
into the commercialization of these ideas and practices. in the next hundred years. Being conscious that these two

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76 77
are not at odds with each other is absent in the political But it’s also regrettable to reduce the debate to a game of
debate. We want to combine contingency and pragmatism; definition. We fully support Reed’s interpretation; spec-
it’s impossible to evolve without any kind of navigation. ulation and fictionalization are much more useful ideas
It is necessary to make plans and proposals, even if you for thinking about progress. The Xenofeminist Manifesto
are not completely sure about chances of succeeding. Only pushed further than we did; with their emphasis on ‘al-
ideas that are formulated can be criticized and bent into ienation’ they took an important step that we can only
action. The creation of a speculative horizon is necessary encourage.
for a pragmatic action and, at the same time, such an ab-
stract imagination arises only when the first pragmatic step Soon after the publication of your manifesto, acceleration-
is taken. ism was picked up by the (visual) art world. Via the 9th Ber-
lin Biennale in 2016, the New York collective DIS injected
In your manifesto you propose that change can be generated the theory into the mainstream and promoted artistic inter-
by accelerating the complex (power) structures. Accelera- pretations of accelerationist ideas addressing technology
tionism received a boost in the nineties by means of the writ- and the future to the general art crowd.
ings of Nick Land who approached such an attitude from a We already discussed a couple of misconceptions of
right-wing perspective against capitalism but in favour of the the accelerationist theory, such as the integral rejection of
free market.2 You blame him for confusing speed and acceler- bottom-up movements and the literal interpretations of ‘ac-
ation. However, do you in turn not confuse acceleration with celeration’ as speeding things up. Are you concerned that
innovation? In other words: acceleration implies an increase these misconceptions could be intensified by simplifying or
of speed in an existing direction, where innovation also can selective translations of the theory in such ‘accelerated’ aes-
mean a complete change of direction. In her contribution to thetics?
the #Accelerate Reader, Patricia Reed presents new formu-
lations of ‘accelerationism’, which, according to her, should AW: I have an aversion to the term ‘acceleration art’. It as-
address a reorientation of existing energies as yet unexplored sumes that one can distil a certain aspect and subsequent-
directions. She aims to crack existing dichotomies in order ly apply it to art. A striking example was an artist who
for countless new combinations, ideas, and constructions to developed a literal acceleration in a gallery. The visitors
arise. It is striking that in Inventing the Future the term ‘ac- were directed to speed up every so metre, resulting in an
celeration’ is not mentioned at all. Today, how do you relate audience that eventually was sprinting through the room
to this term, the debate initiated by your manifesto, and the at high speed. The relationship with the art world is in that
Xenofeminist Manifesto by the collective Laboria Cuboniks, sense very ambiguous. On the one hand, it is a place where
which can be seen as one of its outcomes or continuations?3 the new is embraced and can be developed and, on the oth-
er hand, this obsession gets in the way of a thorough and
AW: The term ‘acceleration’ has indeed proven to be very integer relation with theory.
problematic. It implies that people only interpret our man-
ifesto as a plea for acceleration, which narrows down the NS: Another example of such a short-sighted interpreta-
debate. The manifesto, and the term ‘acceleration’ as such, tion are works that solely aim to show the complexity of
was intended as a polemic intervention, a strategic provo- systems. They enter the category of what we call ‘com-
cation. plexity porn’. In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis many
artists conceived artworks that exposed the elusiveness
NS: The physical definition of acceleration is that it can of the financial system. These works confirm the idea of​
also be a repetition, a complete change or new direction. ’over-complexity’ but do not provide any tools to change

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this. This has a paralyzing effect and in turn can have a new and better reality within the traps. Mankind is em-
political consequences. bedded in this world and our idea of freedom
​​ is that certain
forms of attachment and devotion are cultivated instead of
AW: Accelerationist art should not focus on aesthetics— trying to withdraw from them.
on creating something that merely looks different and
new—but address a new way of looking at the world; recon-
structing it in an imaginary way. Reflecting about this in a This matches well what possible mission a new kind of un-
speculative and fictional way, especially in art or science derground within the arts could entail. Srnicek and Wil-
fiction, is of great importance. Design influences the way liams believe in an interspace free of confines that does
we collectively look at the future and relate to it. The term not turn away from the mainstream, but rather settles in
‘hyperstition’ covers this task: a combination of the words the middle of it and thus aims to imagine a different future
‘hype’ and ‘superstition’ meaning as much as fictions that from within beyond fixed contradictions. Such a contem-
give form to conditions in such a manner that they make porary underground uses the power of structures just like a
themselves into reality. judoka uses the strength of his opponent. We hav e to move
forward—not under the ground, but in the ground.
NS: It is not about presenting robots and 3D renders in
artworks but about the creation of a new approach—an ab-
stract alienation that makes it possible to view the world
differently. The figurative far too easily falls into the pitfalls
of clichés; the liberation rather lies in finding new forms of
abstraction.
We would regard strategist and designer Benedict
Singleton as a good example. He developed a model for
a new sort of parliament in the digital age, investigated
with former military operators how a shared future could
be developed for tourism and terrorism, and explored the
possibilities of a pilot project on universal basic income in
Great Britain. Singleton interprets accelerationism as the
idea that we can never completely free ourselves from the
creation of plots, i.e. storylines. We are trapped in a trap
that is overpowering; the only option we have is to create a
new storyline—a new trap—and in that sense to ‘flee’ from
one trap to a better one.

Isn’t this exactly what the British philosopher Benjamin


Noys reproaches you in his book Malign Velocities, that ac-
celerationism, eventually, only shows us how we are trapped?

AW: That would be the case if it would not be able to escape


the trap at all. We have the freedom to do certain things,
to withdraw ourselves from different positions, to develop

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80 81
Notes
1 
This interview was conducted on
22 October 2016 in Brussels, on the
occasion of the seminar ‘FASTER/
SLOWER/FUTURE, towards
postcapitalism’ at Kaaitheater.
2 The British philosopher Nick Land
developed his thought within CCRU
(Cybernetic Culture Research Unit),
an almost mythical collective that
emerged at Warwick University in the
1990s. From a nihilistic point of view,
Land advocated an uncontrolled and
free market, which would ultimately
lead to the destruction of capitalism,
humans included.
3 
In 2015, the—at the time anonymous—
collective Laboria Cuboniks published
its Xenofeminist Manifesto on line,
not least out of dissatisfaction with
the masculine tone of the #Accelerate
Manifesto. Whereas the #Accelerate
Manifesto searches for approaches to
deal with the accelerating tendencies
of the twenty-first century, the collective
Laboria Cuboniks focused on the
notion of an alienating ‘xeno’ within
the context of an ever faster and more
technological society. The Xenofeminist
Manifesto formulates a provocative
call to fully engage and discover what
potentialities the unknown entails, not
as something to be rejected but rather
as the fertile ground for what is yet to
imagine.

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82
Accelerationism
as Will and
Representation
Benjamin Noys
Going Faster Miles an Hour capitalism cannot offer us a future, only more of the same. In the
We are used to the argument that we live at a time of social accel- words of Mark Fisher, ‘the 21st century is perhaps best captured
eration.1 Technological, social, and political change, we are told, in the “bad” infinity of the animated GIF, with its stuttering, frus-
leaves us living accelerated lives. In response, we often see calls trated temporality, its eerie sense of being caught in a time-trap’.8
to slow down so we can take back control of our lives; from the If capitalism cannot provide us with a future neither can the left,
‘slow food’ movement to the ‘slow professor’ movement, deceler- according to the accelerationists. The left has given up on imag-
ation is seen as the way to return to human time. In contrast, the ining the future due to its focus on a ‘folk politics’, a politics of
accelerationists have argued that we need to go faster. Inspired ‘neo-primitivist localism’ that remains concerned with local or
by the call of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to ‘accelerate the communal forms of resistance that looked to the past, according
process’,2 accelerationists suggest that the future is one in which to Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams.9 The very title of Srnicek and
we transcend the human and integrate with the machine. The aim Williams’s book, Inventing the Future, suggests the need to ‘invent’
of the accelerationists is to engage with technology and forms of new images of the future.10 For accelerationism, the question of
capitalist abstraction so we can invent a new post-capitalist fu- the future is a question of the image and of an aesthetic imaginary
ture.3 This engagement has taken, as we will see, very different that can render a persuasive image of the future.
political forms. It has also resonated within the art world. The at- This notion of accelerationism as an aesthetics extends
tention of accelerationists to the uses of technology and forms of to the name itself. Patricia Reed, in a thoughtful discussion of
abstraction has galvanized a debate about what an accelerationist the vicissitudes of accelerationism, has noted that ‘The surging
art might be.4 popularity of #Accelerate (in both positive and negative senses)
The challenge of accelerationism has been one that insists would not have functioned under a more accurately modest label
we think and theorize our present moment and our practice in of #redesigninfrastructureinstitutions technologyideologytoward-
light of the global forces and forms of capitalism. While I have sotherends’.11 In fact, I would suggest ‘#Accelerate’ and ‘accelera-
been highly critical of accelerationism,5 this challenge remains tionism’ have had such success because they are aesthetically at-
one that deserves critical consideration. In terms of artistic prac- tractive terms—they provide a catchy term and a vision. The use of
tice there is, currently, little work that is explicitly accelerationist. the hashtag also embodies the sort of technological engagement
The laptop musician Holly Herndon’s album Platform (2015) is that accelerationism claims as its domain.
influenced by accelerationist ideas,6 but the answer to the ques- My argument is that accelerationism is an aesthetic that
tion of what an accelerationist art might be remains hanging. Ste- cannot think its own aesthetic form. Accelerationism, in propos-
ven Shaviro has suggested that we see accelerationist works as ing itself as a political strategy driven by images of the future,
those that explore the limits of capitalism by tracing the dystopian tends to a manipulative and authoritarian vision that, ironical-
trends of the present.7 One of Shaviro’s examples is the film Gam- ly, disregards the problems and tensions of art. To explore and
er (2009), with its vision of future videogames that involve the criticize accelerationism I will focus on its two main variants:
control of live humans as players, but we could also consider the right (or reactionary) accelerationism, which regards the acceler-
extrapolations of Charlie Brooker’s TV series Black Mirror. ation of capitalism as its main business, and left accelerationism,
My argument is different: that the accelerationist strategy which aims to navigate through technology and abstraction to a
was already aesthetic, and so we need to understand and criticize post-capitalist society. My analysis will focus, in both cases, on
accelerationism as an aesthetic phenomenon. Certainly, acceler- three points of tension: the subject of acceleration,12 the temporal
ationism was, from its inception, concerned with aesthetic forms model of accelerationism, and finally the resulting politics. While
to demonstrate acceleration. The centrality of electronic dance not disregarding the difference in political orientation, my sug-
music to accelerationism, as an example of speeding-up and inno- gestion is that accelerationism converges on a politics of will, as
vation, is key, as is the use of science fiction and futuristic image- expression of the desire to accelerate, and various fictions, which
ry. Accelerationism suggests we need such images, as neo-liberal are then supposed to motivate this will to accelerate. The problem

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with this politics lies in its aesthetic manipulation of reality to The right accelerationists call for the abandonment of the ‘meat’
create, or to try to create, its desired effects, especially in forging of the body, but this demand comes from the ‘meat’ of the body.
a bridge between our fallen present and the desired future. This We can see this in the obsession with the figure of Nick Land. He
transformation of politics and the world into an aesthetic matter becomes the embodiment of the ‘dark’ forces of acceleration, a
neglects the ways in which artistic practice engages with its mate- cypher for the unleashed material forces, and so we have a cult of
rial, and offers a politics that is driven by an irrational celebration non-personality. Of course, in its reactionary forms, right acceler-
of powerful images. ationism restores the subject in the figure of the neo-feudal ‘lord’
of technology—those entrepreneurs and technological innovators
Cthulhu Capitalism called to rule over the ‘peasantry’ of those who do no accelerate.
It sometimes appears that right accelerationism is a camp of one, Srnicek and Williams have criticized Land’s vision, from
the British philosopher Nick Land who worked at the University within left accelerationism, as the embrace of ‘brain-dead on-
of Warwick in the 1990s and early 2000s with his colleagues in rush’: a vision of speed, not acceleration, that merely replicates
the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) before becoming capitalist dynamism.19 The difficulty for this criticism is that
a journalist in Shanghai.13 Land’s ideas have been disseminated Land and the CCRU do not have a simple model of time as teleol-
widely and he has become the figure of ‘renegade academia’.14 In ogy. Instead, time for them is recursive and looping, a ‘templex’,
the 1990s, Land argued that: ‘Machinic revolution must therefore which accounts for the fascination for time travel narratives, from
go in the opposite direction to socialistic regulation; pressing to- Terminator to Looper.20 Acceleration is realized in the future, but
wards ever more uninhibited marketization of the processes that these forms loop back to our present. While this presents a model
are tearing down the social field.’15 While aiming to push capital- of time as composed of loops, these loops are all related to the
ism to ‘meltdown’, such a position implies this meltdown would moment of realized ‘absolute deterritorialization’ located in the
result in a purified capitalism unleashed beyond any limit. More future. This is the science-fiction military base of ‘Cyberia’, ‘the
recently, Land has turned to an explicitly reactionary position as base of true revolution, hidden from terrestrial immuno-politics
one of the leading thinkers of the ‘dark enlightenment’.16 Now, in the future’.21 So, there is a disavowed teleology, in the sense
the meltdown of capitalism into a pure state is linked to the re- that the loops are always oriented to a future. This vision of time
surgence of hierarchy, often racial in form, opposing those who as multiple loops structured through a science-fiction future rup-
embrace the anti-humanist powers of capitalism to those who re- tures any attempt to model time through a vision of emancipa-
fuse or are unable to ‘accelerate’. The right-wing libertarian phi- tion and replicates the looping circuits of capitalist accumulation
losophies of Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand are articulated with and consumption.
a technological fascism.17 Of course, as accelerationism of the right, we should expect
Right-wing or reactionary accelerationism has a straight- nothing less. That said, however, we should pay more attention to
forward answer to what is the subject of accelerationism: capi- the right/reactionary elements of this disruption of time, certainly
talism. Shearing Marx’s celebration of bourgeois dynamism from since whole swathes of twentieth-century thought have located a
any revolutionary dialectic, this current places capitalism as the ‘good’ durational or disruptive time against a ‘bad’ linear or ho-
accelerator par excellence, through hymning the ‘productive forc- mogenous time.22 The notion of a time richer and superior to the
es’. The role of the human subject in this configuration is as an banal time of teleology can offer a critique of the linear notion of
accelerator of these forces or, more radically, that of one who sub- progress and capitalist development, but only on the condition of
merges and dissipates into the fluxes and flows of global capital- mapping and rationally articulating this ‘alternative’ form and its
ism. In such a resolutely anti-humanist worldview, however, it is relation to the time of value accumulation. Otherwise, this notion
difficult to see how the subject can exercise their will over these of flux can serve to disable our capacity to grasp the complexity
supra-human forces. Instead, the call is for a will to extinction.18 of capitalist time and can even celebrate that capitalist time as a
Of course, the problem then remains of how this call is to be made. superior ‘chaotic’ form of time. In this second case, a metaphysics

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88 89
of temporal flux that serves to disable and disenable any scope for although not its tenets.27 What I do want to identify is common
future-directed action of a collective and emancipatory type. problems that operate across both right and left articulations of
The political conclusion might be obvious: this is a poli- accelerationism.
tics that welcomes and celebrates capitalism, playing off its false The problem of the subject for left articulations of accel-
capitalist promise of equality and levelling (‘Freedom, Equality, erationism can be read in at least two ways. In terms of human
Property and Bentham’, as Marx put it23) against any left-wing subjects, we have the problem of who is doing the accelerating
claims to freedom and emancipation. We can add that the reac- and who is being accelerated. Left accelerationists have a vision
tionary tenor of this politics is already implicit in the celebration which is explicitly top-down; of the introduction of the notion of
of the will to join with capitalism, which separates out subjects accelerationism which will then grip the masses. Their view of
and allows stratification. There are those subjects who recognize accelerationism is an administrative and aesthetic one, with or-
the power of capitalism and join with it and those who are ‘left ganized images of accelerationism deployed to seize hegemony,
behind’ or who should be ‘abandoned’. This later takes a racist, and is strangely not that at home with politics, as the negotiation
or hyper-racist, form in reactionary accelerationisms,24 but was of representation and action. While there is more attempt to flesh
already implied in the stratification and selection of ‘accelerating’ out the subject in Inventing the Future, the subject remains divided
subjects. I also want to add, and return to, the fact that this can between those struggling for future hegemony, the acceleration-
sharpen the metaphysical and politics stakes of a counter thought. ists, and those to be ‘reached’, the ‘acceleratable’.
This is not an argument for debate with these currents, which rep- The other sense of subject is the technology or abstrac-
licate and repeat many past reactionary tropes and movements, tions to be accelerated. The tendency of accelerationism, while
but rather for a recognition of how the door is opened to reaction arguing that technology must be re-purposed and re-used, is to
through these ‘complexifications’ and ‘fractures’ of time that have be vague about how this might take place and what technological
been rendered aesthetically. forms might best be subject to acceleration. This is evident in the
lack of discussion of particular examples of technologies to be ac-
Instruments of Darkness celerated and, when examples are used, their problematic nature
Left-wing accelerationism, instead, aims at a post-capitalist fu- is not discussed. In the ‘Manifesto’ the major example of political
ture. The image is not of a ‘purified’ capitalism per se, but a so- accelerationism is Project Cybersyn, the project to cybernetically
cialism or communism that will make full use of productive forces manage the Chilean economy, under socialist president Salvador
developed by capitalism. It is another sci-fi vision, taking referenc- Allende, initiated by the British cybernetician Stafford Beer.28 In
es not so much from Terminator, but from various ‘utopian’ forms fact, the evidence suggests that the system did not really function
of sci-fi. The aesthetics draws on the 1960s Soviet experiments in that well and, in the end, was mainly used for communication, es-
cybernetics and associated imaginaries of communist space trav- pecially during the build-up of the right-wing coup which would
el.25 It also, as Land did, draws on claims for the ‘inventiveness’ bring the experiment and the Allende government to a violent
of British post-rave dance music, now in the forms of dubstep and end.29 A later discussion of algorithmic finance by Srnicek and
grime.26 These political and aesthetic experiments are seen as pre- Williams is also similarly vague how these ‘cunning automata’
figuring a technological future of ‘red plenty’ in the form of full might be reworked to post-capitalist ends.30 My suggestion is
automation and universal basic income. My focus here is on the that technology, like humans, might be a more recalcitrant sub-
articulations by Srnicek and Williams in ‘#Accelerate: Manifesto ject for acceleration than the accelerationists admit. The Italian
for an Accelerationist Politics’ and in their later book Inventing operaist Raniero Panzieri had pointed out, in 1957, that ‘[t]he
the Future. I do not have space to explore all the differences be- relations of production are within the productive forces, and these
tween the ‘Manifesto’ and Inventing the Future. Briefly, the later have been “moulded” by capital’.31 What this means is that there
book is more carefully expressed than the polemical verve of the are no neutral ‘forces of production’, forms of technology and
‘Manifesto’ and even rejects the use of the term accelerationism, production, that can be taken over and used to different ends.

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Certainly, accelerationism admits the necessity to rework technol- Lenin would have said, sacrificed to the desire for aesthetic suc-
ogy to new ends but, as I have suggested, doesn’t seem to consider cess in ‘inventing the future’.
this ‘moulding’ of technology by capitalism in detail and how we
might respond to this problem. Vectors of Will
In temporal terms, the problem, especially in the ‘Mani- The common horizon of both accelerationisms lies in the notion
festo’, is the lack of temporal specificity of when accelerationism of will, the conception of reality as a site of fictions to be manipu-
takes place. The moment of accelerationism slides between some- lated, and an obsession with settling accounts with the left. These
thing that needs to be engaged in as the condition of struggle, modes of thought are obviously not restricted to accelerationism
acceleration as the marker of struggle, and acceleration as the sign and, at such a broad level, run through many currents of theory
of a true revolutionary process. In brief, to do we accelerate into and politics to varying degrees and in different forms. This is ac-
the revolution, accelerate as part of the revolutionary process, or celerationism as will and representation. Obviously, this would
accelerate after the revolution? While such a brief statement is seem a reference to Schopenhauer or to Nietzschean conceptions
liable to these kinds of variations, and the answer could be all of the will. The rejoinder is that these forms of will are inhuman
three, I would say the lack of specificity leaves the moment of ac- forms of flux and flow with no place for human ‘direction’. Still,
celeration a floating one. In this case, acceleration can be invoked while claiming a materialist and inhuman will such philosophi-
at various points and in various ways, especially when detached cal forms leave open a place for the philosopher who knows how
from speed, to become the imprimatur of a ‘true’ or correct line to subsume into this will, who can give up rational control and
or process. This is especially the case when the major target of apprehension of the world for immersion in ‘blind’ materiality.
these texts is the left and the failures of the left. The temporal This is clearest in Nietzschean invocations of the Übermensch
index of acceleration is used to settle a debate with left tendencies and superior beings who are able to embrace and traverse the ni-
and so this temporality is also left detached from critical engage- hilism of the present. Accelerationism reveals this play between a
ment with capitalist forms of time. materialism that treats the world as a flux of random matter and
This links to my concerns with the politics of left accel- an ‘idealism’ that supposes a will that can manipulate or join with
erationism. The focus on the left as target leaves the analysis un- this flux. The random world of colliding material atoms requires
grounded, as capitalism and the right recede into material to be an infusion of human will that in the process will become one
used for accelerative processes. It seems that if we get the correct with this chaotic world.
line in that dwindling constituency that is the left everything will In right or reactionary accelerationism, materiality is the
unfold from there. Certainly, Inventing the Future tries to remedy deterritorialized flows of capitalism to which we must submit and
this fault with a more detailed conjunctural analysis, but the ma- to which we can only contribute by pushing them further and
jor target remains the left. The constant in both texts, in different faster. This admits the role of human will as a kind of ‘vanishing
ways, is an invocation of ideas and the delivery of ideas, via he- mediator’ to this absolute acceleration. In the more reactionary
gemonic struggles, as central to the battle over the future. Again, versions, this vision of flux is overlaid with toxic class, racial,
I think this is not per se wrong, but the analysis seems to me often gendered, and sexualized fantasies of those subjects who can
to leave hegemony as empty of content, reduced to a struggle of impose this immersion on others. This inhabits the ‘aristocrat-
ideas or of power that is undertaken by different groups of intel- ic’ Nietzschean politics that rejects movements of equality and
lectuals. The discussion is also light on previous uses of hegem- social justice as unnecessary ‘brakes’ on the achievement of a
ony as a concept and practice and the various faults and failures new ‘superior’ human, at one with the will as eternal recurrence.
of these past experiments. Aesthetics plays a less evident role in If Nietzsche might be said to be the primary reference for the
left accelerationism compared to right acceleration. The stress on right version of accelerationism, we could suggest Georges Sorel,
images of inventing the future and problems of motivation does, or a decaffeinated Sorel, for the left version. Sorel, influential
however, leave the concrete analysis of the concrete situation, as on Gramsci, developed an equivocal politics of will as mode of

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division and struggle. For Sorel, revolution required myths to gal- reactionaries (NRx) that this restraint also includes a refusal to
vanize the will to overturn ‘bourgeois’ society. In left accelera- consider forms of ‘natural’ hierarchy (i.e. racism). In terms of infla-
tionism this is not a will of violent separation, but a will vectored tion, the definition of the left as a planetary cabal, what Mencius
through platforms and think tanks, a will that is ‘for’ the left but Moldbug (aka Curtis Yarvin) calls the ‘Cathedral’,33 in charge of
which produces analysis as a matter of competing force and pow- regimes that obviously, by any sensible measure, are not left wing,
er. If the right have been successful it is due to their force and will serves as ideological justification for the ‘rebel’ or ‘guerrilla’ stance
and if we are to be successful we must match them. of NRx and reactionary accelerationism. This also accounts for
In terms of representation, it is hyperstition that is the how the right accelerationists adopt (and pervert) certain left polit-
key category for both forms of accelerationism. Hyperstition ical tropes and forms of organization. While they make use of tech-
describes the ways in which fiction structures or produces real- nology (memes, political trolling, etc.) the irony is these techniques
ity. A common example is H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Cthulhu Mythos’, a often remain ‘folk political’, in terms of bottom-up insurgencies.34
fictional construct of alien beings who once ruled the earth and In the case of left accelerationism, matters have shifted
will again, which has become ‘real’ through its reproduction as considerably, at least in the case of Srnicek and Williams’ work,
a mythology.32 This kind of representation is what gives ‘weight’ from a striking critique of the left as ‘folk politics’ in the Mani-
to these intellectual or cultural interventions. On the right, the festo to a more moderated critique in Inventing the Future, where
fictions tend to be nihilistic deconstructions of selfhood, hence ‘folk politics’ comes to mean something like Gramscian common
the appeal of Cthulhu, and nihilistic celebrations of the sublime sense (why that category isn’t used is an interesting question).35
power of capitalism, hence, again, the appeal of Cthulhu. On the Folk politics remains an error, and something to be reformed,
left the fictions have been more ‘real’, a tendency to appeal to past however. It also remains the province of the left. While this can be
utopian moments of accelerationism, notably Project Cybersyn, said to be obvious for a therapeutic intervention aimed at the left,
that did not ‘work’ but contain potential to reactivate a new tech- if folk politics is a more general name for the condition of all pol-
no-politics. Again, we could say this is an invocation of a kind of itics why this restriction? Also, there doesn’t seem to be much of
myth. Across both, an appeal to sci-fi and electronic dance music an epistemological and political account about the position from
provides an aesthetic core of hyperstitional forms of acceleration. which folk politics is identified and critiqued, or of a dialectical ar-
While we should obviously be sensitive to the power of fictions ticulation of the possibilities in ‘folk politics’, if we were to accept
that structure the real, especially evident in the various financial this category. While recently folk politics has been considerably
instruments that stalk the world, fiction here risks dissolving re- loosened or expanded, and hegemonic struggle has stepped to the
ality into competing claims in which representation is, again, a fore as the counter-strategy, the concept of politics still remains
matter of power and authority. to me in the mode of power politics, of competing fictions. He-
Finally, while critiques of the left are certainly necessary, gemony, itself a loose concept, leaves vague what is specific to
a slippage occurs in the fact that the left may have powerful po- accelerationism, except demands that cannot be met. This, finally,
litical ideas but it certainly does not have much political power. is a neo-Kantian conception of politics, by which I mean it tries
While certainly left accelerationism tries to bridge this gap, it can to develop a condition of how we should do politics and impose
also overestimate the power of the left even at the level of ideas it on reality. This involves a split between an ideal condition and
and leave the right untouched. For right accelerationism it is obvi- a recalcitrant reality, which have to be brought together by those
ous to target the left, which is dismissed as a moralistic constraint who are ‘enlightened’, rather than developing a thinking of strug-
on the raw power of capitalism unleashed. This is a trope that gle and politics out of current struggles.
dates back to Land’s 1990s work and that of the CCRU, which, as
I have already quoted, suggests ‘Machinic revolution must there- Conclusion: Arts of Acceleration
fore go in the opposite direction to socialistic regulation’. It now, I want to draw some conclusions for the left out of these three
in Land’s recent work, connects to the racist inflection of the new points of critique I have posed: subject, temporality, and politics.

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In terms of subject, the left has had the traditional answer of the a matter of will, but as a matter of necessity, working with the
proletariat. The class with nothing to lose but their chains, the various dispersed and fractured struggles of the moment. This
class which is the source of labour that capitalism exploits, and so would be to abandon the neo-Kantian politics of the idea and de-
forms the universal class opposed to capitalism. Certainly, we can mand for a politics of class struggle engaged with contemporary
say, which has always been the case, the proletariat appears as a forces. In this I am saying nothing original and something that
problem. The collapse or decline of ‘traditional’ institutional and many here would say they have already said or would agree with.
political forms of worker resistance (states, unions, parties) seems That is good. I do think, however, that if accelerationism has no
to leave a vacuum into which not only accelerationism steps. Cur- future, fine. If it is to be abandoned by its adherents, fine. This
rent left analysis seems to oscillate between the identification of does not mean, however, that certain of its habits of thought do
a vanguard group of workers closest to the (Kantian) idea of the not remain and in so far as I consider them pernicious need to be
proletariat (cognitariat, surplus population, precariat, etc.) and a critiqued. After all, accelerationism did not fall from the sky(net),
dispersion of the concept to include, nearly, everyone (99%, mul- but it fell on fertile ground already prepared in many intellectual
titude). I think the purification of the proletariat as subject out and political currents and out of certain continuities, especially
of the empirical working class is part of the problem.36 We are from thinking in the 1980s and 1990s.
lacking, or forgetting, the need for class analysis that can grasp To end, I want to clarify my criticism of accelerationism
the overlapping and displacement of these strategies (think of the as an aesthetics. My suggestion is that while it poses as a political
category of ‘the retired’ for example). While I am suggesting this strategy, accelerationism takes an aesthetic form.38 This includes
is a task, I still think this is a central task to displace a politics of an aestheticization of capitalism, which is recreated in the image
will that engages in a forcing not attentive to these realities. of a ‘great accelerator’, whether that be welcomed as monstrous
Second, temporality. Here the left has a temporality of inhuman horror or subject to future modification for transition to
progress. While I myself have no doubt been equivocal on this, a post-capitalist future. It also includes an aestheticized politics
and still have much sympathy for Walter Benjamin’s critique, this that aims at the use of irrational myths to galvanize and motivate
critique does not simply disable a notion of progress or, if you action, as well as an authoritarian vision of reality and humans as
prefer, teleology. After all, even the dead will not be safe if the manipulable material to be accelerated. This is not to reject art or
enemy wins. While Inventing the Future is staked on progress, aesthetics, or the role of the aesthetic within politics. Instead, it
this remains with utopian fiction as ‘the embodiment of the hy- is the ways in which art and aesthetic practice engage with ‘mate-
perstitions of progress’,37 which is to say in the register of willed rial’ that might rupture these aestheticized fantasies that tend to
fictions, even if these produce ‘real’ effects. Against this fiction- depart from the material or leave it as chaotic ‘stuff’. We might
alization of progress, which risks reducing it to mere option, and even talk of art against accelerationism, rather than supposing
against the pluralization and dispersion of time into a churn of some smooth translation between them. This is not to suggest art
loops or micro-times, we might be better if we return to Brecht’s can save us, but rather that a better grasp of the problems that
demand that we start with the bad new. This involves a task of accelerationism raises requires artistic and political ‘thinking’.
sorting, identifying, and strengthening those points of resistance That is why this is one more, or one more last, effort to make a
in time that promise or develop towards a socialist or communist critique. Not in the hope or regret that this will finish things, but
future. The imagination of the future is not enough, we also need as a means to start again.
to imagine the bridge to that future out of our present.
In line with what I have said, this is a politics that is geared
to contesting the right, reactionary currents, and capitalism. No
doubt this politics, which attempts a material grounding in our
conjuncture, is also going to involve contests amongst the left,
but I see also the need to target the right. It sees politics not as

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96 97
Notes 13 Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier, 29 E
 den Medina, Cybernetic Revolutionaries:
‘Editor’s Introduction’, in Fanged Technology and Politics in Allende’s Chile
1 Hartmut Rosa, Social Acceleration: Noumena, ed. Nick Land (Falmouth: (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).
A New Theory of Modernity (New York: Urbanomic, 2011), pp. 1–54. 30 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams,
Columbia University Press, 2015). 14 Simon Reynolds, ‘Renegade Academia: ‘On Cunning Automata: Financial
2 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, The Cybernetic Culture Research Acceleration at the Limits of the
Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Unit’, Energy Flash Blog, 3 November Dromological’, Collapse VIII (2014),
Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley et 2009: pp. 463–506.
al. (Minnesota: University of http://energyflashbysimonreynolds. 31 Raniero Panzieri, ‘Surplus Value and
Minnesota Press, 1983), p. 240. blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/renegade- Planning: Notes on the Reading of
3 For a collection of the main texts see academia-cybernetic-culture.html Capital’, in The Labour Process and
Robin Mackay and Armen Avenassian, 15 Land, Fanged Noumena, p. 340. Class Strategies (London: Conference
eds., #Accelerate: The Accelerationist 16 Jamie Bartlett, ‘Meet The Dark of Socialist Economists, 1976),
Reader (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014). Enlightenment: Sophisticated Neo- pp. 4–25, p. 12 (italics in original),
4 See the e-flux 46 (2013) Fascism That’s Spreading Fast on the https://libcom.org/files/The_Labour_
‘Accelerationist Aesthetics’, Net’, The Telegraph, 20 January 2014: Process_&_Class_Strategies.pdf.
www.e-flux.com/journal/46/ http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/ 32 CCRU, ‘Origins of the Cthulhu Club’,
5 Benjamin Noys, Malign Velocities: jamiebartlett/100012093/meet-the-dark- in CCRU: Writings 1997 –2003 (S.l.:
Accelerationism & Capitalism enlightenment-sophisticated-neo- Time Spiral Press, 2015, e-book).
(Winchester: Zero Books, 2014). fascism-thats-spreading-fast-on-the-net/ 33 Mencius Moldbug, ‘OL9: How to
6 Ruth Saxelby, ‘10 Radical Ideas that 17 Harrison Fluss and Landon Frim, Uninstall a Cathedral’, Unqualified
Inspired Holly Herndon’s Platform’, ‘Behemoth and Leviathan: The Fascist Reservations, 12 June 2008,
Fader 21 May 2015, Bestiary of the Alt-Right’, Salvage, 21 https://unqualified-reservations.
www.thefader.com/2015/05/21/ December 2017: http://salvage.zone/ blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/ol9-how-to-
radical-ideas-that-inspired-holly- in-print/behemoth-and-leviathan-the- uninstall-cathedral.html.
herndon-platform. fascist-bestiary-of-the-alt-right/ 34 See Mike Davis, ‘A Week in the Death
7 Steven Shaviro, No Speed Limit 18 This would be evident from Land’s of Alfred Olongo’, Los Angeles Review
(Minnesota: University of Minnesota first and only monograph Thirst for of Books, 6 October 2016,
Press, 2015). Annihilation (London and New York: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/
8 Mark Fisher, ‘Break it Down: Mark Routledge, 1992), which embraces week-death-alfred-olongo/
Fisher on DJ Rashad’s Double Cup’, Schopenhauer’s vision of will as flux. 35 Srnicek and Williams, Inventing the
Electronic Beats (2013), 19 Srnicek and Williams, ‘#Accelerate’, Future, pp. 5–24.
www.electronicbeats.net/mark-fisher- p. 351 (02.2). 36 See ‘“The Proletariat is Missing”:
on-dj-rashads-double-cup/. 20 Nick Land, Templexity Representations of the Proletariat in
9 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, (S.l.: Urbanatomy Electronic, 2014). Cinema’. Interview with Ramin Alaei
‘#Accelerate: Manifesto for an 21 Land, Fanged Noumena, p. 292. of Culture Today Magazine (Iran),
Accelerationist Politics’ (2013), in 22 Peter Osborne, ‘Marx and the www.academia.edu/28620075/
#Accelerate: The Accelerationalist Philosophy of Time’, Radical The_Proletariat_is_Missing_
Reader, ed. Robin Mackay and Armen Philosophy 147 (2008): pp. 15–22, p. 17. Representations_of_the_Proletariat_
Avenassian (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 23 Karl Marx, Capital vol. 1, Marxists in_Cinema_Interview_with_Ramin_
2014), pp. 347–362, Internet Archive, Ch. 6, Alaei_of_Culture_Today_
http://criticallegalthinking.com/ www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/ Magazine_Iran_.
2013/05/14/accelerate-manifesto-for-an- download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf 37 Srnicek and Williams, Inventing the
accelerationist-politics/, p. 351 (02.2). 24 Nick Land, ‘Dark Enlightenment’, Future, pp. 71–75.
10 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, www.thedarkenlightenment.com/ 38 On the critique of the ‘aestheticization
Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism the-dark-enlightenment-by-nick-land/. of politics’ see Walter Benjamin, ‘The
and a World Without Work (London: 25 Francis Spufford, Red Plenty (London: Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical
Verso, 2015). Faber & Faber, 2010). Reproduction’, in Illuminations, ed.
11 Patricia Reed, ‘Seven Prescriptions 26 Alex Williams. ‘Back to the Future? and intro. Hannah Arendt, trans.
for Accelerationism’, in #Accelerate: Technopolitics and the Legacy of the Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken
The Accelerationist Reader, ed. Robin CCRU’. ‘The Death of Rave’ event, Books, 1968), pp. 217–251, p. 242, and
Mackay and Armen Avanessian Berlin, 1 February 2013, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger,
(Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), www.electronicbeats.net/en/radio/ Art and Politics: The Fiction of the
pp. 521–536, p. 523. eb-listening/the-death-of-rave-panel- Political (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell,
12 For a more sympathetic discussion discussions-from-ctm-13/. 1990).
of this problem for accelerationism, 27 Srnicek and Williams, Inventing the
see Simon O’Sullivan, ‘The Missing Future, p. 189, note 55.
Subject of Accelerationism’, Mute 28 Srnicek and Williams, ‘#Accelerate’,
(12 September 2014): p. 357 (03.10). See also Srnicek and
www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/ Williams, Inventing the Future,
missing-subject-accelerationism pp. 149–151.

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Accounting for
Xeno
(How) Can
Speculative
Knowledge
Productions
Actually Produce
New Knowledges?
Lietje Bauwens
‘Perhaps it is high time for a xeno-architecture (of knowing) to seventies is emblematic. In response to the dramatic mutilation of
match’ is the second last sentence from Armen Avanessian’s entire neighbourhoods in the name of modernization and profit— a
preface to Markus Miessen’s publication Crossbenching.1 phenomenon known as Brusselization—citizens, architects, artists,
Intrigued by the neologism ‘xeno-architecture’ and curious about cultural workers, academics, and the like called for the right to
its progressive potential for spatial practice, Wouter De Raeve, make decisions about their city and for a politics that emphasizes
Alice Haddad and myself approached Miessen and Avanessian particularities. Small-scale, local and especially bottom-up projects
to collaborate on further developing the ‘xeno’—risk, uncertainty, became more and more popular – a city garden to halt climate
and the unknown—and investigate how it could be thought of in change or a communal playground to overcome segregation. Even
relation to architecture. if such practices used to have engaged and subversive functions,
The research of the ‘Perhaps It Is High Time for a Xeno- at present their radical nature has been neutralized. Key ideals
Architecture to Match’ project (hereafter referred to as ‘Perhaps such as participation, direct human contact, and local action have
It Is High Time’) was twofold; it consisted of a series of estafette been integrated within the neoliberal logic against which they were
conversations with philosophers, poets, experts in the field aimed in defiance.
of human rights, and designers that took place both live and These merely local and physical approaches are incapable
via Skype between February and April 2017 (which are now of dealing with the complex and planetary challenges the world
compiled in a publication2) and, secondly, a performative event faces today. Politics of austerity and exclusion, protection of
in the Kaaitheater in Brussels on 18 April 2017. By intertwining privacy, climate change, and so on; how does one begin to envisage
theory and praxis and proposing the ‘xeno’ as a (curatorial) solutions when it is impossible to even truly fathom the problems?
methodology for various cultural productions, our collaborative The size and structure of these issues, dazzling in scale, are often
inquiry slowly evolved into a research laboratory and ‘xeno-test offshoots of human engineering—technology, capitalism, big data—
case’ in and of itself. Based on the idea that a genuine ‘new’ future that have begun to move as independent agents in their own right.
can only be constructed when one’s rational knowledge apparatus If Facebook convinces you who to vote for in the next election, if
becomes open to indeterminacies and contingencies, ‘blind spots’ Google tells you what treatment to seek when you feel sick, and
were intentionally injected into the thinking processes. The fridges, mobile phones, and public transport cards are in constant
different interpretations and applications of these ‘blind spots’ interconnection, tracking and directing daily movements, we
and of ‘othering’ and ‘alienation’ proved that, whilst these may be should be asking ourselves who, or what, is truly governing reality?
interesting concepts, one must consider the relationship between Beyond merely seeking new forms of designing,
their usage and consequences. Is it possible to move away from structuring, and occupying space that might better deal with
a stagnant ‘what is’ towards an open ‘what could be’, while still abstract structures on a global scale—beyond the tangible and
being held accountable for ‘what actually happens’? physical—’Perhaps It Is High Time’ should be perceived of as
an exercise in stretching current humanistic understandings of
Conceptual Stagnation of the New rationality and knowledge. With his preface, Armen Avanessian
To better grasp this methodological question, which is at the core provoked Miessen to reconsider his ‘Critical’, and, according to
of this essay, it seems necessary to return to the roots of our project, Avanessian, therefore deconstructive, ‘Spatial Practice’3 in the
our frustrations with the (architectural) realm and our subsequent light of the prefix ‘xeno’.
interest in the ambitious prefix ‘xeno’. ‘Perhaps It Is High Time’ was The focus on ‘xeno’ emerged out of a conceptual stagnation
the result of a dissatisfaction with current practices in the public, and fundamental miscommunication between on the one side a
and thus political sphere. The city of Brussels, our hometown Critical attitude, with a capital C, being an end-in-itself, and on
and starting point of the xeno-architecture project, is instructive the other side a more and more complex, insecure, and contingent
in this regard. It embodies a long tradition of social engagement, (digital) world. As Patricia Reed emphasizes in the second
of which the resistance to urban developments of the sixties and estafette-conversation of ‘Perhaps It Is High Time’:

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102 103
To me the problem is that we have, on the one hand, a reject the (as yet) unknown—a key element within the xenophobic
proliferation of contingencies in the techno-sphere and, on debate—but rather proposes to fully engage with it and foster
the other, a conceptual stagnation that actually limits the it further. ‘The construction of freedom’, the collective states,
impact of what that novelty could signal and how it can be ‘involves not less but more alienation’.7 By emphasizing the
instrumentalized.4 xeno, a whole spectrum of possibilities opens up, and as such
the alienating forces of society become not something to fear but
In their ‘#Accelerate Manifesto’,5 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams something we can use and build upon.
state that even though we might consider ourselves capable of As speculative designer Benjamin Bratton underlines,
designing ‘the new’, our conception of novelty is still limited by it would be a missed opportunity to search for architectural
the strict frameworks of capitalism. If the highest values of our solutions for only those problems we already know exist, just as
society are innovation, novelty, and creativity; then how can this it would be a missed opportunity, for example, to only construct
attitude only result in more of the same? Instead of retreating from an artificial intelligence that aimed for human, i.e. recognizable,
technological transformations, Srnicek and Williams propose to qualities. Behind this limited and thus limiting perspective lies a
‘accelerate’ them. world full of possibilities: ‘The things that are of interest to me in
By emphasizing the existence and manipulation of global, the field of AI philosophically have less to do with how to teach
complex, and non-physical structures, these accelerationist ideas the machine to think as we think, but rather in how they might
are strongly linked to what has been coined the ‘speculative turn’. It demonstrate a wider range of embodied intelligence we could
is difficult to trace the exact beginning of the speculative movement, understand. That way we could see our own position in a much
but the 2007 conference at Goldsmith University of London wider context and it would teach us a little about what ‘thinking’
hosting Ray Brassier, Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, and actually is.’8 By starting from a point of view that is not purely
Ian Hamilton Grant marks an important moment in this regard. human, speculative design can help to learn from unknown and
Whereas the four philosophers hold very different viewpoints, they still unconceived technologies in order to expand the image of
agreed that a break is needed with the correlationist conception humanity, our way of thinking and our political agency.
that takes the human being as the centre of all meaning. Even
that which we cannot see or have knowledge of is real. As such, Alienation as Method
rationalist speculation—one that, as is captured in the prefix ‘xeno’, The prefix ‘xeno’ is not a static image of ‘the unknown’ but stands
includes risk, uncertainty and the unknown—becomes the only way for the incorporation, by praxis, of ‘othering’ and ‘alienation’;
to talk about a world that can never be completely understood. by accepting that which exists outside of human perception
This becomes increasingly pressing in the world of today. as ‘real’, it becomes possible to inject the imaginary into our
In order to think through the implications of big data and personal rational knowledge apparatus. Philosopher Reza Negarestani
privacy, one must to learn through the contingency and risk of rejects propositions that would abandon the humanistic, rational
the algorithm – to think as an algorithm. A solution for climate project—as post-, non- and trans-humanistic tendencies do—and
change needs to be as abstract, pluri-local, multi-systemic and proposes instead an ‘inhumanism’.9 Not denial, but a dedication to
trans-generational as the problem it addresses.6 Thus, in order to humanism and rationality as being a continuous (re)construction
formulate effective progressive political strategies, it is necessary and update of what it means to be human. By ‘playing the game
to reach for what is (as yet) unknown and strive ambitiously of giving and asking for reason’, humans are not only able to
towards ‘what could be’ instead of settling for answers that are map out the space of reason, but also negotiate its boundaries
within reach and under control. by incorporating new ‘xeno-spaces’ or ‘blind spots’ that push it
Rather than the accelerationist’s call to ‘speed up’, the beyond its limits in the search for new ground.
collective Laboria Cuboniks proposes the notion of an alienating Not only are we already surrounded by existing blind spots,
‘xeno’ in their Xenofeminist Manifesto. The manifesto does not there is also an opportunity to broaden our cognitive horizon by

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104 105
consciously creating more, and instrumentalizing, ‘unknown that is not a representation of contingency and unpredictability,
unknowns’, as Luciana Parisi states in the second estafette but the enactment of a situation in which the contingency of laws
conversation: ‘We do not think of transcendental or metaphysical themselves might make themselves known.
indeterminacy—the blind spot—as some kind of limit to human A few years ago, philosopher Armen Avanessian and artist
knowledge, but instead we look at how it precisely demarcates the Andreas Töpfer published Speculative Drawings.12 The drawings
point of incomputability that is, or rather should be, part of our that make up the book attempt neither to be representation nor
construction of imaginaries, theories, and aesthetic practices.’10 illustration of its theory, but to precede it and they are used as
The indeterminate unknown is a fertile zone, without which it is a setting for imagining new ways of reading and thinking. The
impossible for new propositions, theories and artistic projects to central question is how to think with art instead of reflecting on it.
arise. Together with filmmaker Christopher Roth, Avanessian further
Theory-fiction is the simulating engine of philosophy, developed this approach in his project DISCREET, presented
according to Reza Negaristani who wrote Cyclonopedia (2008), during the 9th Berlin Biennale—ʻThe Present in Drag’—in 2016.
a philosophic horror-science fiction. Speculative knowledge Instead of displaying an aesthetic interpretation of the future,
productions are always both a reflective and a performative act Avanessian set up an ‘Intelligence Agency for the People’ at
that investigates and embraces the (as yet) unknown. In line with the Akademie der Künste. Over the course of three weeks, data
these convictions, it comes as no surprise that many thinkers are analysts, theorists, and hackers gathered to propose new codes
interested in (science) fiction as a way to leave the beaten track and strategies for speculatively dealing with data: a collective,
of the academic context and language. It is important for many performative production of knowledge instead of a transfer of
that their means of expression surpass that which is expressed; ideas.
to not only write about speculation but let the text itself be a
speculative exercise. Where the ‘inwardly’ academic form of Xeno Test Case
critical discourse suits particular kinds of knowledge and content, Within this mind-set, ‘Perhaps It Is High Time’ used a ‘xeno-
the speculative turn proposes a constructive thinking that methodology’ in order to deal with an unknown concept and its
expands the imagination with fictional and ambitious proposals. (yet) unknown meaning. By means of not only thinking about
To remain faithful to the content of their point of departure, many ‘xeno’ but also testing it, the inquiry brought critical questions
speculative philosophers feel the need to embrace experimental about the limitations of its productivity to the fore.
forms of knowledge production as a fundamental part of their Whereas the ambitious manifesto format of the #Accelerate
theoretical research. and Xenofeminist manifestos were in line with the decisive
Meillassoux, for example, was closely involved in thinking content of the texts, Miessen and Avanessian decided to instead
with musician Florian Hecker about the latter’s composition organize a series of estafette conversations; intentionally injecting
Speculative Solutions. In the transcript of a conversation between contingency into the thinking process by inviting thinkers and
the philosopher and the musician, Meillassoux argues that one practitioners to continue each other’s lines of thought. The
can only approach the contingent nature of the world, which different points, the transfer of the baton, of the texts, to one
he calls ‘hyperchaos’, by creating a ‘toolbox’ in which constant another, via e-mail and Skype became a temporal and spatial
change could manifest itself. Instead of making a music piece event in which each conversation functioned as a building
that is ‘merely a sonification of the idea [of hyperchaos]’,11 ground for the next one. The selection of speakers may have been
Hecker proposes to let a dialogue spring from his experimental conventional, and the format of the conversations left room for
composition, the cd-box, and the accompanying booklet with the participants to put their expertise on the table without being
excerpts from the work of Meillassoux. He continuously lets brought into completely alienating positions, but this xeno-
these three elements intersect and refer to one another. What structure made it possible to give an, albeit indefinite, meaning to
hyperchaos offers, perhaps, is the image of a speculative artwork xeno-architecture and the idea of what an ‘inhuman architecture’

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106 107
could be. By inviting experts from juridical, technological, and stage, and the artistic intervention surpasses the theory it aims
political realms to approach their research through a ‘xeno-lens’ to develop further?
and simultaneously knitting their individual discourses into an While its main purpose was to go beyond the presentation
architecture of knowledge, the series of conversations managed of knowledge, and to contrarily produce a theory live, the overload
to stretch the neologism from within, probing what it entails not of chaos, speed and ‘xeno’ within the performative event did not
only rhetorically but also as a means of practice; dealing with the surpass a one-to-one representation (read: aestheticization) of
instrumentalization and governance that are necessarily involved ‘hyperchaos’ instead of expressing its structural existence, as
in the geopolitics of architecture, the emancipatory potential in Meillassoux underlines. In line with an adequate interpretation
offshore structures, and the possibility of transnational citizenship. of ‘contingency’, the new or unknown is not by definition a
The performative event in the Kaaitheater was located at complete degeneration of what is familiar. Contingency, the
the other end of what I call the methodological xeno-spectrum. continuous possibility of complete and incomprehensible change,
Instead of giving a talk or lecture about ‘xeno-architecture’ effectively lies in the fact that we cannot predict how the world
Miessen and Avanessian used the xeno as a curatorial will look tomorrow. Thus, we cannot even predict whether it will
methodology, aiming to amplify an understanding of the xeno be any different from the world of today. Forced disorder is just
through an audio, visual, olfactory, and relational experience by another form of order. Overemphasizing chaotic and accelerating
giving carte blanche to different artists in what Avanessian calls characteristics, as in the speculative ‘xeno-architecture’ event at
‘an attempt to abductively produce something new’.13 How can the Kaaitheater, doesn’t do justice to the incoherent nature of
one think of a non-physical architecture by not merely speaking speculation in which continuity should also be recognized as an
about it, but by ‘feeling’, ‘smelling’, and ‘experiencing’ it? The indispensable option.
modus operandi leading to the event showed that in building this
chain of contingency, while its outcome was unpredictable, the The Productive Blind Spot
notion of responsibility also became unstable. The diverse artistic The unlimited size of the blind spot in the performance and its
interventions, lacking a collective anchor to hold on to, ultimately disorienting outcome raised important critical questions; when
flattened into overall confusion. is the creation of uncertainty productive, and what can be the
The event ‘failed’. But can we even use terms such as success definition of productivity in a speculative context? When are we
or failure, given the speculative aims of the event? How can we dealing with an incomprehensibility that (in the long term) stretches
account for this failure within an experiment that explicitly seeks the ability of reason, and when with an incomprehensibility that
to destabilize the conditions for its own legibility? By ceding all has lost touch with its function?
control, based on the desire for a complete ‘othering’, radical From a ‘xeno point of view’, one could argue it is impossible
contingency was injected into the Kaaitheater to create a setting to immediately state whether something has failed or not and
‘in which we are not in charge, in a way forcing the other to do that this will only show itself in and from the future; what seems
what he or she cannot do’.14 Based on this wish, Avanessian and to confuse us at the moment, is exactly what the potentiality to
Miessen positioned themselves as performance-curators instead widen our rational capability entails. But is this not too easy?
of philosopher and architect – thereby completely othering Does such an attitude not exclude itself in every situation from
themselves from their fields of expertise. In the middle of an any form of criticism?
unstructured gathering of accelerated videos, sense-dancers, The blind spot marks a relational actuality between points.
and a participatory performance, the confusion foremost In Contagious Architecture, Luciana Parisi states:
displayed how ‘alienation’ became an ‘end in itself’ and thereby
resulted in an isolated blind spot, instead of a relational one. The turnaround point is the spatiotemporality of the
The disorienting outcome raised a pressing question: can you relation itself, which overlaps the point of arrival and the
still speak of knowledge production when knowledge leaves the point of departure but does not fuse them together. For this

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108 109
reason, this relational actuality remains a blind spot: an Meillassoux in conversation with Hecker, ‘is to break with this
invisible but lived spatiotemporal actuality.15 lawful randomness in a way that is other than random and show
that controlled narratives can still be constructed in a world
The estafette-series created such an interval, a ‘break without substance’.18
from the continuity of experience of two positions’16 between the
different participants and ‘their’ conversations, within an authored Parts of this text are based on the preface to Perhaps It Is High Time
structure. I argue that the estafette concept ‘worked’ in creating for a Xeno-Architecture to Match publication (Berlin: Sternberg
a ‘toolbox’ in which the xeno could manifest itself, whereas on Press, 2018), which I wrote together with Wouter De Raeve and
the stage of the Kaaitheater the xeno became an end-in-itself. Alice Haddad in June 2017.
Alienation is necessary to move away from ‘what is’ towards ‘what
could be’, but in itself it can never become totalizing: one can only I would like to thank Wouter De Raeve and Henry Andersen for
alienate oneself ‘from something’ or ‘from oneself’ – without such their thoughts and support in developing this text.
a relation, alienation can not be constituted.17
As above, the ‘xeno,’ and therefore Armen Avanessian’s
intervention in Markus Miessen’s Critical Spatial Practice,
originated from a dissatisfaction with capital C Critique; critique
(lowercase) is necessary to think about new thoughts, but should not
be an end in itself. A similar danger lurks in fetishizing speculation
when, as Negaristani warns, imagination is not located within the
ever-changing boundaries of reason but is left unattended outside.
If ‘what could be’ becomes nonsense when its ties to ‘what is’ are
broken, then how should one find a balance between ‘too safe’ and
‘too much?’ How big can the letter X of xeno grow before it loses
its productive power? Is it possible to redefine ‘productivity’ in
terms that are non-immediately measurable, without dismissing
the concept entirely? The most interesting outcome of the xeno-
architecture project may have been the realization that despite,
or perhaps because of, the difficulty of the relationship between
speculation and xeno and their quantifiable productivity, there is a
need to design speculative parameters that can test what forms of
speculative art can function as a synthetic medium to enlarge not
only the space of knowledge but also that of action.
The biggest challenge for knowledge production and
cultivation of a new speculative rationality perhaps lies less in
the performative incomprehensibility of what is academically
comprehensible, but in trying out alienating settings and
manipulations that explore experimental ways of learning in real
contingency. Not by (aesthetically) representing ‘the unknown’,
‘chaos’, or ‘acceleration’ from a comfortable and familiar point
of view, but by structuring the conditions for randomness
without shackling it to a predefined image. ‘The difficulty’, states

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110 111
Notes https://www.urbanomic.com/
wp-content/uploads/2015/06/
1 Markus Miessen, Crossbenching: Urbanomic_Document_UFD001.pdf
Toward Participation as Critical Spatial 12 Armen Avanessian and Andreas
Practice (Berlin: Sternberg Press, Töpfer, Speculative Drawings (Berlin:
2016). Sternberg Press, 2014).
2  Perhaps It Is High Time for a 13 Armen Avanessian in ‘Conversation
Xeno-Architecture to Match, ed. Armen 1’, in Perhaps It Is High Time for a
Avanessian, Lietje Bauwens, Wouter Xeno-Architecture to Match.
De Raeve, Markus Miessen, and Alice 14 Ibid.
Haddad (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 15 Luciana Parisi, Contagious Architecture,
2018). Computation, Aesthetics and Space
3 The full title of Markus Miessen’s (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013),
publication is Crossbenching: Towards p. 120.
Participation as Critical Spatial 16 Ibid., p. 119.
Practice. The concept of Critical 17 Patricia Reed, ‘Xenophily and Com-
Spatial Practice is present throughout putational Denaturalization’, E-flux,
all Miessen’s work. In a series of Artificial Labour, 18 September 2017.
publications (Critical Spatial Practice, 18 Speculative Solution: Quentin
Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011–ongoing), Meillassoux and Florian Hecker Talk
for example, he and Nikolaus Hirsch Hyperchaos, www.urbanomic.com/
invite protagonists from the field wp-content/uploads/2015/06/
of architecture, art, philosophy, Urbanomic_Document_UFD001.pdf
and literature to reflect on the single
question of what, today, can be
understood as a critical modality of
spatial practice.
4 Patricia Reed, in ‘Conversation 2’,
in Perhaps It Is High Time for a
Xeno-Architecture to Match.
5 Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams,
‘#Accelerate: Manifesto for an
Accelerationist Politics’, in #Accelerate:
The Accelerationalist Reader, ed. Robin
Mackay and Armen Avanessian
(Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014), p. 358.
6 Patricia Reed, ‘Uncertainty, Hypothesis,
Interface’, in _AH Journal 00
(‘Scientific Romance’), ed. Beatriz
Ortega Botas, 2017. _AH Journal Online
7 Laboria Cuboniks, ‘Xenofeminism:
A Politics for Alienation’ (2015),
www.laboriacuboniks.net/qx8bq.txt,
last accessed on 06-03-2018.
8 ‘Benjamin Bratton on Artificial
Intelligence, Language and ‘The New
Normal’, Interview with Benjamin
Bratton by James Taylor-Foster,
9 February 2017, www.archdaily.
com/799871/benjamin-bratton-
on-artificial-intelligence-language-
and-the-new-normal-strelka-moscow.
9 Reza Negarestani, The Labor of the
Inhuman, Part 1: Human & Part 2:
Inhuman’, E-flux journal #52
(February 2014).
10 Luciana Parisi, in Conversation 2,’ in
Perhaps It Is High Time… See Note 2.
11 Speculative Solution: Quentin
Meillassoux and Florian Hecker Talk
Hyperchaos

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Part 2
Instituting
the New
The Museum vs.
the Supermarket
An interview with
Boris Groys
Thijs Lijster
Introduction philosophical books, and so on. To Groys, this meant that we had
Is the new still the first and final criterion for evaluating art? In to start looking for a new understanding of the new.
the 1980s and 1990s theorists of the postmodern argued that this In order to do that, Groys first stripped the new from its—
final criterion now too failed us. In his essay ‘The Sublime and mostly modernist—connotations with concepts such as utopia,
the Avant-garde’ (1984) Jean François Lyotard scorned ‘the cheap historical progress, creativity, and authenticity. Referring back
thrill, the profitable pathos, that accompanies an innovation’ (p. to Nietzsche, he defines innovation instead as the revaluation of
106), Fredric Jameson in his seminal essay ‘Postmodernism and values:
Consumer Society’ (1983) argued that ‘the writers and artists of
the present day will no longer be able to invent new styles and Innovation does not consist in the emergence of
worlds’ (p. 7), and American art critic Rosalind Krauss published something previously hidden, but in the fact that the
a book titled The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist value of something always already seen and known is re-
Myths (1986). The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 forced artists valued. The revaluation of values is the general form of
worldwide to rethink the legacy of modernism and modernity. In innovation: here the true or the refined that is regarded
his essay ‘Comrades of Time’ (2009) Boris Groys wrote about this as valuable is devalorized, while that which was formerly
transition: considered profane, alien, primitive, or vulgar, and
therefore valueless, is valorized (p. 10).
The present as such was mostly seen in the context of
modernity as something negative, as something that The exemplary work of art, to which Groys would return again
should be overcome in the name of the future … Today, and again throughout his oeuvre, is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain
we are stuck in the present as it reproduces itself without (1917). What Duchamp did, after all, is not inventing something
leading to any future. … One can say that we now live in that wasn’t there before, but placing something from the domain
a time of indecision, of delay—a boring time. of the profane in the domain of the sacred. In retrospect, argues
Groys, this was what art and artists have always done. Duchamp,
This boredom characterizes contemporary art, in Groys’ view. by stripping the act of artistic transformation down to almost
The contemporary artist for him is like Sisyphus, who in the nothing, shows us what innovation comes down to: cultural
same repetitive and senseless act has to keep rolling the boulder revaluation.
up the mountain. The modernist artist was facing the glorious For Groys this meant that the answer to the question of
horizon of the future, but the contemporary artist swims in a sea innovation was to be found in a specific place: the collection or
of contemplation and confusion. For Groys this is not necessarily archive. To collect something, whether it concerns books in the
a bad thing, but it does raise questions on the nature and function library, immortal souls in church, or works of art in the museum,
of ‘artistic innovation’ today. means to grant it importance, that is, to sanctify this something.
These were questions that he already dealt with in his Hence, Über das Neue can be considered as the starting point of
book Über das Neue (On the New), which was published 26 Groys’ reflections on the function and status of the museum in
years ago in 1992, in the context of the aforementioned debates our contemporary society, which he later developed in books such
as Logik der Sammlung (The Logic of the Collection) (1997) and
in art and theory.1 According to Groys, something peculiar was Topologie der Kunst (A Topology of Art) (2003). As the subtitle
happening with regard to the new: on the one hand, and in line of Logik der Sammlung makes clear—Am Ende des musealen
with the theorists mentioned above, no one ‘believed’ in the new Zeitalter, ‘at the end of the museum age’—Groys was already well
any longer; but on the other hand, everyone still expected to see, aware of the waning influence and importance of the traditional
hear, or read something new, upon entering the museum, going museum, in the face of not only societal developments such as the
to concerts or theatre plays, or when reading novels, poems, suspicion towards a supposedly elitist culture and the increasing

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power of private collectors, but also of artistic movements, which sometimes puzzling, and now and then also leads to controversial
in several waves of so called ‘institutional critique’ tried to break or even questionable statements. He has a way of thinking a
out of or emancipate themselves from the museum. Still, as Groys certain statement through to its most extreme and seemingly
emphasizes again in the interview below, without the museum, bizarre consequences, such as in Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin (1988)
there can be no innovation. in which he argues that Stalin completed the utopian project of
Groys distinguishes the new from modernist ‘myths’ of Russian avant-garde artists like Malevich or Mayakovski, and
historical progress and utopia, but also from contemporary myths even understood it better than they themselves did; or in Das
such as creativity and the ‘Other’. With regard to the latter, he kommunistische Postskriptum (2006), where he argued that the
has always been critical of the idea that the art world should be a Soviet Union was the realization of the linguistic turn in the
‘reflection’ of society. In Art Power (2008), for instance, he writes: political realm.
Another aspect of his work and style that makes him both
When art relinquishes its autonomous ability to a fascinating and provocative thinker is his apparent nihilism. In
artificially produce its own differences, it also loses the this interview as well as in any of his other writings, he resolutely
ability to subject society, as it is, to a radical critique. refuses to be nostalgic or moralistic. He registers the historical
All that remains for art is to illustrate a critique that developments of and differences between the modern and the
society has already leveled at or manufactured for itself. postmodern, between the East and the West, or between the
To demand that art be practiced in the name of existing museum and the supermarket, but he nowhere speaks of decline.
social differences is actually to demand the affirmation Rather than passing value judgments, Groys seems to be more
of the existing structure of society in the guise of social interested in analyzing what has actually changed, and how this
critique (p. 113). change allows or forces us to reframe our concepts and practices.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Über das Neue,
However, this does not mean that art is apolitical for Groys. On which, as it happens, is also the 100th anniversary of Marcel
the contrary, as he argues below, the revaluation of values that is Duchamp’s Fountain, I asked Groys to reflect on the legacy of this
the general form of innovation, i.e. to value something that was book, on the contemporary meaning of notions such as creativity,
not valued before, or to devalue something that was valued, is the originality, and novelty, and on the future of the new.
political act per se. Scenes from everyday life, the dream, primitive
rituals, household equipment, advertisement, and popular I Über das Neue, 25 Years Ago
culture—all these things were considered too base or banal for Thijs Lijster: Could you tell something about the time in
art, but were included in the cultural realm by innovative artists, which the book was written? What was the situation in the
in much the same way as voices that are not heard in the political art world, and why did you think it was important to write
realm strive to be heard, and as entities that were not represented a book on the category of the new back then?
in politics and law gained rights.2
Born in East Berlin in 1947, Groys began his academic Boris Groys: That was the time of postmodern discourses:
career in Leningrad and Moscow, where he was also active in everywhere everybody was speaking about the impossibility
the unofficial art scene. In 1981 he moved to West Germany of the new. That was a core belief of the postmodern mind
where he later obtained his PhD at the University of Münster. frame. At the same time, it was quite clear to me—I was
Today he is Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic teaching at the university and I was also, as a curator,
Studies at New York University, and travels around the globe as a participating in artistic activities—that the factual criteria
lecturer and curator at art institutes, biennials, conferences, etc. of the new were still valid. For example, imagine someone
His experiences with both sides of the Iron Curtain proved to who has to write a doctoral thesis, saying: I don’t say
be crucial for his thinking, which is always thought-provoking, anything new, because we live in postmodern times and

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the new is impossible, so let me only repeat what was TL: The new was, as you said, separated from utopia and
said before. It would not be possible for him to make his progress, and with that also from its temporal dimension.
doctorate. So, to make the doctorate, he would have to You write: ‘The new stands in opposition to the future
prove that he said something new. It was the same in the as much as to the past’ [2014, p. 41]. Innovation, in your
case of selection of artworks at an exhibition, especially view, is what happens when an object is transferred from
contemporary overviews of the state of the art world. Here everyday life into cultural tradition. Still, is it possible to
again, the first question was still: is the art work a new detach the new from its temporal dimension? After all,
phenomenon, did this artist do something new or not? isn’t the new what happens after the old?
So, there was a kind of duplicity in culture that I
experienced at that point: on a theoretical level everybody BG: Again, I didn’t detach it; it was detached de facto.
said that the new was impossible, but in cultural practice So I asked myself: What is the function of the new in
this requirement of the new was still valid. The goal of this context? It became clear to me that the new, in the
the book Über das Neue was to try to reconstruct and context of art, is related to what is already in our archives.
to describe the hidden, implicit presuppositions of this Our culture is structured in the following way: we have
requirement. So: what does it mean to require something the archives, and the world outside of the archives. The
new after the new became impossible? What is the archives exist in the here and now, and the world outside
context in which the new is still possible? My book was of the archives also exists now; it is not the world of the
an attempt to reconstruct the theoretical, and in a certain future or the past. Both worlds—that of the archives and
way also pragmatic presuppositions of the new, against the the outside world—are contemporary to each other and to
background of this cultural duplicity. our own experience.
But what is their relation? My idea was that it is in the
TL: In order to do that, you rid the concept of the new intersection between these two worlds that the new emerges.
from all kinds of ideological connotations, like ‘utopia’ If I write a doctorate and I want to show that the doctorate
and ‘progress’. You start out by giving a series of negative is new I do not compare what I said to all possible opinions
definitions of the new: ‘The New is not just the Other’, ‘The in the world I’m living in, because it can happen that some
New is not utopian’, ‘The New is not a product of human of these opinions actually are part of my world. I begin
freedom’, and so on. Could one say you tried to ‘rescue’ the to compare this text, my own text, with the archives, with
category of the new, by detaching it from all these other what is already accepted as valid in a certain discipline. So,
categories? I take some opinions or knowledge—my own opinions and
those of my friends—from outside of the archives, compare
BG: I wouldn’t say I tried to rescue it, and I wouldn’t say I them to what is already in the archives and precisely if some
tried to negate all the other concepts. I merely responded of these opinions are not in the archives I present them as
to the situation I just described. I saw that all these new. The artist does the same. That is something already
connections, between the new and progress, utopia, and described very well by Baudelaire, in his famous essay on
so on, became obsolete if we would take the postmodern ‘The Painter of Modern Life’. Baudelaire speaks about an
discourse seriously. All the while, the new hadn’t become artist who looks at the classical ideal of beauty and at the
obsolete; it remained operative in our culture. So, it’s not same time at what happens around him, and then what he
like I tried to do something – to disengage the new from all tries to do is to combine them. The same can be said about
these associations. It is what happened in culture, that was the avant-garde. The avant-garde never ever indicated
the situation. I was not the author of this situation; I just any future. If we look at the avant-garde writings, their
tried to phenomenologically describe it. programmes and manifestoes, they all tell you the same:

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we have the museums, filled with ancient Apollos and so BG: First of all, I consider my own theory of the new
on, and outside of the museums and around us we have as a total politicization of the new. The decision to take
tanks, trains, airplanes, explosions, and killings, industrial something from everyday life or everyday experience and
machines, and mathematics and geometry. Some kind of to put it into the archive is an eminently political decision.
new order. These things are not precisely the things of the In a certain way it is the actual political decision. It’s what
future; they are already around. Kierkegaard said with regard to Jesus Christ: believing he
was not just a normal man but the son of God is simply a
TL: All they did was implement them into the cultural decision. To ascribe value to something that up till then
realm? had no value, to put it in a valuable context, is the Urform
of political decision-making. Actual politics functions
BG: Precisely. That’s it, and only that. The avant-garde never according to the same pattern. For example: up to a certain
went one inch into the future. The avant-garde always only point in history the workers had no value in the system of
wanted to transport and transpose certain experiences that representation. It takes a political decision to change this
the people in their contemporary life had into the museum value, after which they are represented.
space, into the space of the cultural archives. And the power In the Second Surrealist Manifesto, Breton asks:
of the avant-garde was precisely its ability to cross this What is an authentic surrealist artwork? And he answers:
border and to bring the lived experience into the cultural to go into the crowd with a revolver and randomly shooting
space. It was not concerned with some idle projection of into it. So, you take this action, a terrorist deed, and put it
the future, or some senseless utopia, but with the lived into another context, the context of art. In the same way,
experience of everyday life in an industrial civilization. It Marinetti speaks of the metallization of the human body,
is the same with Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and so the wonderful effect of exploding African villages, and so
on. Duchamp doesn’t invent anything. He takes a urinal on. If you look at those examples, you see immediately that
and places it in the museum. Now imagine that you bring to what I describe is eminently political. Utopias are not by
the museum another urinal, and say: this is a different one, nature political, they are literary fictions. Whether they
because it has a different form. No museum would take it, have any political value has to be decided politically. In
because they would say: it is irrelevant, because it is not new other words: utopias are not a source of politics, but an
enough. What does that mean, not new enough? It means object of politics. I have to make the decision, and this
that it might be different in form but does not engage in decision cannot be delegated to any theory or any utopian
the difference between art and life, between the cultural vision. That means that the value of my political decision
and the profane realm, between the archives and everyday cannot be deduced from utopia itself.
existence. So, I would say that the notion of the new, and
the effect of the new, is something that has its place on the TL: The politics of the new, then, is that in the same way
border of the cultural archive and contemporary life. that people who were not politically represented get a vote
and get representation, something that was outside of the
TL: If the new is detaches from the aforementioned cultural realm gets inserted.
categories like utopia, progress and human freedom, doesn’t
that also imply a depoliticization of the new? In Über das BG: Yes. And with regard to politics, not only people, but
Neue, also in Logik der Sammlung, you point to the many maybe even lions or plants. A new ecological consciousness
failed liaisons between artistic and political avant-gardes. has emerged that believes that certain animals or plants
However, if the idea of innovation is detached from the idea should also be represented in our culture, which means
of a better world, what is then still the value of the new? they should be protected. The question what should be

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represented is the crucial question of our society, because and artist, it was precisely to mediate between the archive
our society knows only two modes of relating to things and and everyday life, that is, to provide artistic (or theoretical)
people: to let them perish, or to protect them. That is the expression and representation of everyday life. But the
basic political decision. If you decide to include something Internet gives to everybody the immediate possibility to
into the system of representation, this means that you present oneself on the global stage—everybody makes
are interested in how this thing—object, human being, selfies, videos, writes blogs, and so on. We no longer
animal or whatever—will be translated into the future. The have a mass culture of consumers—the situation that was
museum, the archive in general, is a futurist institution, described by Adorno—but a situation of mass cultural
because it keeps things for the future. Futurism was never production, where everybody is an artist, everybody is a
about the future, innovation is not about the future, but writer, and a philosopher. We no longer need mediators, so
it relates to the future in so far as it gives us a promise of we no longer need writers, philosophers, or artists.
protection and preservation. The second difference, however, is that the Internet still
does not produce the stability, security, and protection
TL: So, what is new now will be included in the collection that the traditional archives had. We often think this is an
and preserved for the future. institutional question, or a technological one, but in fact
it is an economic one. Internet platforms are privately
BG: Yes, precisely. Being included, it will not be discarded. driven, so they have to make profit. And that means that
That is the promise on which our culture is based. This basis on the Internet there is no place for the museum, or an
is so fundamental that it is often neglected. For example, archive in any form. I’m quite sceptical about whether this
Nietzsche said: my writings will only be understood after will change. Basically, today, if you want to have an archive
three hundred years. It meant that he firmly believed that on the Internet, it should be based on already existing
mankind, without actually understanding his writings, archives. Only institutions such as the MoMA and Tate
would be reproducing them, putting them in libraries, can establish something like an Internet archive, partially
distributing them, for three hundred years. If you want to also because they are able to pay for this. In the EU, if you
speak about utopia, this is a true utopia. There is an almost want to establish an Internet archive, you get a guarantee
automatic and unconscious reliance on the institutions of of protection of maximum 30 years. So, it will cost a lot of
protection in our culture. People writing books, producing money, and there is still a lot of insecurity.
artworks, have an instinctive trust in the possibility that What does it mean if you take these two points together?
these works will survive. This faith is precisely what gives It means that in the contemporary global framework, you
the basic energy to the effort to make something new, so that have total representation, but from a future perspective it
it will be safeguarded, protected, translated into the future. is all garbage. What is interesting is that the Silicon Valley
And that is precisely what I was and still am interested in. people know this very well; they all create secret museums,
libraries, documentation centres, etc. but these are not
II The New, Then and Now traditional archives in the sense I describe in my book,
TL: What, in your view, is the main difference between the since they are not publicly supported and accessible to the
situation in the art world 25 years ago and now? public. There have been many attempts to create electronic
archives, but de facto none of these attempts were really
BG: The main differences have to do with the emergence successful, precisely because of the general structure of the
of the Internet, as an electronic archive. These differences Internet and its relations of property.
manifest themselves in the two following ways. First, if It is the classical Marxist situation of collective
you think of the traditional role of the writer, philosopher, use and private property. That analysis, if there is any

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place to use it, very much applies here. Everybody uses of the present, or determine our direction for the future,
these Internet platforms, but they belong to only a few we do not know what is historically meaningful and what
companies. There is a tension between the interests of the is meaningless. And what would this mean for the category
users and the interests of the companies, but this tension of the new?
is hidden and not thematized, because people believe that
the Internet is a means of communication. If we would BG: Indeed, we can no longer rely on the tradition. And
start to think the Internet as a means of archiving, then again, I think this is related to digital media: we are
this tension would be obvious. It is possible, however, that confronted with everything at the same time, and everyone
people would give up the archive in general, that people has globalized themselves. At the same time, we’re not sure
will be only interested in communication and no longer in what the archive still means under this new condition. But
archiving. That would mean indeed that they would not be as long as there are archives, it makes no difference for
interested in the future, and then the role of the archives the category of the new. There would only be a difference
would be decreasing. To some extent, we already are in this if the archives would dissolve completely. If that happens,
situation: the museums are poor; they cannot compete with then we no longer have the new, but then we also no longer
private collections. Private collections are based partially have philosophy, literature, or art. Probably we’ll still have
on the current situation in the art world but being private politics, but I’m not sure about it. All these phenomena
they are based very much on the collector’s taste, which relate to the archives, so if the archives dissolve, then all
cannot be collectivized. These private collections do not of the other things dissolve as well.
course constitute the framework for protection that I was
describing. The same can be said about libraries, and so TL: Is that a real threat?
on. We more and more experience them as too expensive,
taking up too much space. BG: Maybe it is a threat, maybe a relief. I think a lot of
It seems to me that today we are in a period of people would see it as liberation. It is difficult to say. I
transition. One the one hand, the structures I described in think it is a mixture between threat and liberation, in the
my book—in academia, in museum, in the art world—still same way that every utopia is also a dystopia. But I think
exist and function in the same way. Parallel to that we have the fact is that many people welcome this development;
Instagram, virtual reality, viral videos, and so on. I don’t that the feeling of liberation prevails, the feeling of being
say we have to make a choice; I only want to say that there liberated from the archive, but also from literature, art, and
is a factor of uncertainty and a lack of clarity about their philosophy.
relationship, and I think that is a factor that emerged only In a sense it would be another step in the history of
after the book was written. secularization. European culture has a complex relation to
its religious heritage. You still have the names of the saints,
TL: You say that people are no longer interested in the ideals of sovereignty and creativity, and an institutional
archival function, but at the same time there is a lot of long-term memory, which all together show that it is really
anxiety about the preservation of tradition, in the shape of a secularized version of a feudal or religious order. In one
‘cultural heritage’ and so forth. In Über das Neue you wrote: of my early texts, written at the same time as Über das
‘[T]he new ceases to represent a danger and becomes a Neue, I wrote that I would not be surprised if after a new
positive demand only after the identity of tradition has revolution, curators would be hanged from lampposts in
been preserved’ [2014, p. 21]. Might one say that the the same way the French aristocracy was, because they
contemporary anxiety emerges from a lack of historical incorporate the same feudal order. It is possible that we
orientation? In other words: since we cannot make sense go through a new wave of liberation, which started in the

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1960s, found its medium in the Internet, and now rids itself to a certain kind of inner logic of the collection itself: it
of the final traces of the feudal order. wants to expand. When collections are confronted with
something they overlooked they are eager to absorb it.
TL: And would this also mean the end of the new? However, as I tried to discuss in Über das Neue,
the question of minority representation involves two
BG: Yes. The problem is that the new itself, in European problems. In my view, this whole issue has an American
culture, has of course its origin in the New Testament. So, background. When I went to America some years ago, it
what is the new? The New Testament is new in relation to was an interesting discovery for me that I had to declare
the Old Testament. If you don’t have the Old Testament, my ‘race’ in many forms. I suddenly belonged to the
you can’t have a New Testament. That’s just logic. Now, cultural majority, because I am a white male. There are
if we have an anti-testamentarian movement, as we have 1,5 million Russians living in New York City alone, many
now, almost already full-fledged, then it is all over. There don’t speak English, but they are supposed to belong to the
is no old, no new, there’s no culture. And I tell you: people majority culture of the US. So first of all, the problem is:
experience that as liberation. I see that a young generation what counts as a minority and what is the majority? These
is very happy about it. And I’m not against it. categories are always problematic.
The second problem is that individual artists, writers,
TL: In your book you discuss the issue of representation, or philosophers never really represent their culture of
and also the struggle of minorities or socially oppressed origin. Could we say that Baudelaire is typical French,
groups that want to be represented in the collection or that Huysmans is? Or who is typical German or Dutch?
archive. This seems to be a highly topical issue (not only After all, these artists represent only themselves. The idea
with regard to the museum, but for instance also with regard that they represent a bigger group is, I would say, a very
to popular culture: Hollywood that is considered to be too American idea.
masculine, too white, etc.). However, you are quite sceptical
of the way this debate is usually framed. You write: ‘Even TL: But even if you say that the individual artist doesn’t
if an artist or theoretician utilizes things and signs of the represent a group, you still might say that the museum
social class from which she comes, she has always already represents a certain Western white male culture, rather
detached herself from this class and acquired a capacity than other cultures, which are present geographically
for observing it from without’ [2014, p. 169]. But isn’t it speaking but aren’t represented in the museum’s collection.
also the question from which direction the innovation is
supposed to come? In other words: whether it is from the BG: I agree with that. We have a complicated structure
perspective of the collection that something appears as of protest and domestication. To become a famous French
new (as you argued in your book), or that something from poet, you first have to hate everything French, to break
the outside demands access to the collection? In the latter with the tradition. Like Rimbaud who said: I want to
case, you might say that claims to just representation or, become black, I hate France, or Breton who said: when
in Honneth’s terms, cultural recognition, are in fact highly I see a French flag I vomit, and so on. If you are really
important. and typically French, your work will never be in a French
museum, and you will never be a French poet of genius,
BG: They are relevant. But first of all: if there is a pressure because you will be average French. You will have to break
from the outside, a struggle to enter the collection, this all the rules, hate France—committing some crimes is
struggle is almost always successful. Why is that? It is always helpful; think of Genet—and only then you get the
always successful because, as I try to show, it corresponds status of being a great French artist.

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The problem with the contemporary struggles is that residue of religion. I think that, if you are not a Catholic,
people want to have access to the collection, but without and all these people probably are, you cannot believe in
putting into question themselves and their own tradition. creativity. Mankind cannot be creative. It’s the worst form
You are not obliged or expected to make this detour, not of religious naivety. The only form of human productivity
obliged to become other to yourself, which is, actually, the is combining, putting things together. The Internet was
meaning of the word ‘other’. As French philosophy crossed modelled after an elementary Turing machine, and that
the Atlantic it changed in many ways, but the crucial was actually a full description of what a human mind
change was in the word ‘other’. In the French tradition, the can do. After all it is just copy and paste. We cannot do
‘other’ is either God, or the subconscious, but in any case it anything ontologically new; that is the principle of human
is something living in you that is not you, that can possess activity. So, creativity is divine privilege.
you, destroy you, take over. You are struggling against it,
put it under control or otherwise it controls you. It is an TL: You argue in your book that it is impossible to
old story, and eventually led to Bataille, Foucault, and distinguish authentic from inauthentic newness. But
Derrida, for whom the other is writing: it is not you who don’t you think that newness/novelty means something
write, but something in you and through you. But then, different, or is used in a different way, in different spheres?
after this French philosophy crossed the Atlantic Ocean, For instance, the new iPhone that one needs to have
the ‘other’ became simply: the other guy. People think they every couple of years; is it the same kind of newness as an
are already the other, because they are the other guy. This innovation in the art world?
secularization or banalization of otherness is actually what
constitutes the major part of contemporary discourse. BG: A new iPhone is not an innovation. It is repetition.
I don’t say it’s a wrong development, because The structural condition of innovation is the archive. We
secularization is at the core of our modern consciousness. have two models in our civilization: the supermarket,
I just wanted to point out that, in relation to the concept and the museum. What is the difference? One model, the
of the new, something changed. My relation to my identity museum, allows for innovation, because it keeps all the
changed. Instead of trying to destroy my identity, becoming old productions, and so you can compare the old with
other to myself and in this way gain access to the cultural the new. If I introduce a new product in the supermarket,
tradition (as was always the case), now I simply reassert it is simply part of the offer. You don’t see what is not
my identity and raise a claim to be accepted to the cultural offered. Assyrian Gods, for instance, are not offered in
archives, without any kind of suffering or inner struggle. the supermarket. What is not produced here and now
is removed from the supermarket, and so we can’t see
TL: Today, even more than when you wrote the book, it. And because you can’t see it, you can’t compare it,
innovation seems to be applauded throughout society, and because you can’t compare it, you are in the same
especially with regard to economic production. Think situation as you were before. Maybe you can remember
of Richard Florida’s praise of the creative class and the what was in the supermarket two months ago, if you have
creative city. Everyone has to be creative, think outside the a good memory, but not for very much longer. So, if you
box, every product has to be innovative, and so on. How are not in the archive but in the real world, there is no real
do you regard this imperative of creativity in the sphere of change, because every moment is like the other moment.
economic production? As long as you don’t think teleologically—so if you don’t
think there is an origin, and don’t believe there is an
BG: I think creativity is nonsense, total nonsense. The end—you cannot differentiate between one moment and
notion of creativity is a Christian notion per se, it is a another, since you cannot determine their distance from

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the beginning or the end. If you believe in the second and so on. All you can do is look at it and speak about it.
coming of Christ, you can calculate the distance of a And that is precisely what is established in the museum:
particular moment from the first and the second coming, you look at art, you speak about it, but you cannot use it.
but if there is no such promise, whatever it is, then it is Human rights are basically art rights.
like if you’re running on a treadmill: you are running, but Now, it seems to me that human beings are more and
you remain in the same place. more left to themselves. We feel like Mowgli, or Tarzan, so
When I came to America, there was the Obama that we have to see for ourselves what is dangerous, how we
campaign, with the posters ‘Change’, and ‘Yes we can’. I can improve our chances, and so on. Children are raised
always told my students: changing is the only thing we can. this way, with a very cautious and frightened attitude. If
There is change today and change tomorrow. The only real I remember my own young years, I was absolutely not
change would be a change from change to no change—that frightened, but today my own students are scared to death.
is utopia. They have the feeling that if they lose, they’ll simply perish;
it is sheer fear for survival. They no longer believe in the
TL: But social institutions can change. Replacing the feudal social conditions for survival. It is an interesting period in
order with a democratic system is an actual change, isn’t it? human history. But there’s no place to think of innovation,
only of survival.
BG: Yes, that was a historical change. But after that, and
if there is no longer a hierarchy, then you don’t have any III Innovation and Acceleration
change. The problem of our social institutions today is TL: A more recent plea for societal innovation and progress
rather that they change all the time. You can never find the has been accelerationism, as explained in Nick Srnicek
same person in the same place. I don’t think democracy has and Alex Williams’ much-discussed #Accelerate Manifesto
anything to do with it. What happened is that ever since from 2013. They argue that capitalism has become a source
the industrial revolution, there is constant technological of stasis rather than of innovation. Rather than working
development, and we as humans tried to accommodate to against the accelerating powers of capitalism—as in the
changing situations. Every day, all our effort is concentrated different slow-movements, or romanticizing localism and
on how to survive this day under different conditions. I authenticity—we should speed up even further, so as to
cannot send e-mails because my mail program is obsolete; let capitalism crash against its own limits and go beyond
I can’t install a new program, because my computer is it. How do you consider this proposal, or how in general
obsolete; I cannot buy a new one, because I don’t have would you describe the relationship between acceleration
Internet connection, etc. I spend day after day just trying and innovation?
to accommodate to these changes. Today we are witnessing
the disappearance of the division of labour: you have to BG: There is no acceleration, there is just more pressure.
do everything yourself on the Internet, become your own Moreover, you are not the subject of this movement. The
doctor, taxi driver, and so on. What our civilization is about problem of accelerationism is the belief that you can
is basically the sheer material survival of mankind. appropriate this movement and steer it. That is impossible.
The protection of human beings is very closely Even our friend Deleuze didn’t believe that. He believed we
related to the protection of artworks. Actually, the museum can enjoy acceleration, but he didn’t believe that we could
was installed at the same time and by the same people control it, or appropriate it.
who thought of human rights. Human rights are actually
the rights of the artwork: there is this body that has to be TL: In their recent book Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism
protected, and so you cannot use it, you cannot mistreat it, and a World Without Work [2015], Srnicek and Williams

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further argue that left politics has abandoned the idea of against French utopianism. But I think it will produce a
progress and modernization, leaving them in the hands new Soviet Union. Not in precisely the same way, but to the
of neoliberalism, while retreating in a localized and extent that the Soviet Union was basically the administration
romanticized ‘folk politics’, as they call it. In their view, the of stagnation. In the contemporary competitive world, it
left should reclaim the future, and the category of the new was difficult to keep it. But if the whole world becomes
is the instrument to do so. They write: ‘If the supplanting stagnating, then the question of world revolution can come
of capitalism is impossible from the standpoint of one or again, the question of international socialism can come
even many defensive stances, it is because any form of again, the question of world administration and world
prospective politics must set out to construct the new’ [p. state can come again, all the Hegelian/Marxist/Kojevian
75]. How would you respond to this? line will come again. Right now, it is suppressed by this
running to nowhere. The feeling of that may be exciting,
BG: I think that the moment we are experiencing now but it is a certain period of time, and it will not last very
creates illusions of this type in the minds of young people. long.
They believe that they are something like living start-ups.
It’s a new neoliberal illusion. Our whole development will TL: So if I understand you correctly you say that the left
lead to stagnation. First of all, the globe itself is a symbol of doesn’t need new ideas, because these ideas are already
stagnation: it circulates, while progress is linear. Today we there.
speak not about universalism, but about globalization. But
globalization is circulation and that means that we have BG: Yes. In many ways we are back in the nineteenth
already reached the point of stagnation. The stagnation is century, and that is the rhythm of the European culture:
not obvious to most people, because there is still a middle the seventeenth century was reactionary, the eighteenth
class, with its traditional institutions: the universities, century was progressive, the nineteenth reactionary,
the museums, and so on. But as soon as these collapse, the twentieth century progressive, etc. If you look at
the middle class will also collapse. I sometimes tell my the reaction of the nineteenth century to the French
students that every day they spend at the university makes Revolution, first of all, everybody believed that the
them poorer, because the people who have money, from Republican democratic regime collapsed because they
Madonna to Bill Gates, never went to school. So, we will could not succeed structurally, and secondly everybody
come to a very traditional situation of poor and rich, and believed the revolutionaries were morally evil because they
this will produce the return of left ideas. Because, as long killed children and young women under the guillotine.
as you think that you can individually cross the bridge Both this moralization and the disbelief in the capacity of
between poor and rich, as long as there is still a bridge to survival were general throughout the nineteenth century,
cross, you will always be neoliberal. You can think what but at the end everybody was democratic. Now you know
you want, but you will try to do so. But if the gap is too how history works, there’s nothing new: now the Soviet
wide, like in the 1920s and 1930s, like in Fritz Lang’s Union is totalitarian, terrible repression, women and
Metropolis, then the only answer will be left ideas. children killed, and it was impossible, it could not survive.
But in 70 or 80 years it will be completely reversed. So,
TL: What will these left ideas produce, then? A new middle we should simply relax and wait, for in time we will be
class? disappointed by neoliberal illusions and utopias, look at
reality of life, which is miserable, and then look at the
BG: We will see, we don’t know that. I am like Marx: never models, not of the better life, but of how to organize
predict what that revolution will produce. He was always miserable life.

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TL: Like in the saying of Brecht, that communism isn’t the thinker and much more honest than everybody else, said:
equal distribution of wealth, but of poverty. when we really understand Marxism and Leninism, we
should accept that our situation is always a bit ahead of our
BG: Of course. And it is as bad as any other social system, ability to reflect on it. So, our thinking is behind our real
but it has at least one advantage, that I understood when situation. And that is precisely what connects capitalism
I went to the West. You really didn’t have Angst, this and socialism, this belief in the powers that are faster than
prominent insecurity, and this sheer fear of not surviving we can think.
the next day. On this very basic level people felt themselves
totally secure and protected. And I believe this desire for IV The Future of the New
stability, protection, and security will emerge again. TL: Let’s return once more to the concept of the new in
Today you see it on the right. Why is that? The West relation to the art world. In the Dutch book with essays
believes it has won the Cold War against socialism and on your work, Dirk van Bastelaere argues that the concept
communism. But who exactly are the winners? It is ‘entropy’ you use in Logik der Sammlung (according to
neoliberalism and religiously coloured nationalism. Now which the collection constantly extends and absorbs that
they are fighting each other. But they will try to find a which it is not) should—in line with your own economic
compromise, because they have a common feature, and that jargon—be replaced by the concept ‘inflation’, which is
is competition. Neoliberalism believes in the competition less neutral. Inflation would then mean that the increase
of everybody against everybody, and the other in the in artistic innovations (and hence the culturalization of
competition of one ethnic group against the other. Both profane domains) implies at the same time a decrease in
hate universalism, and both hate the ideas of solidarity and value of these innovations [Van Bastelaere et al. 2013, p.
cooperation. They honestly believe that what is best should 85]. Do you agree with that diagnosis?
be defined by competition, and if you don’t arrange a harsh
competition you won’t know what is the best or who is BG: If we follow our earlier line of thinking, that is if the
capable of winning. The problem is that, as I believe, man whole system of selection and representation collapses,
isn’t capable of anything at all. The problem of nationalism then the new will have no value at all. It only makes sense
and neoliberalism, then, is still the illusion of humanism, if you have the archives and institutions—and the critique
that humans can be creative, competitive, determine their of institutions is part of it. Without the institutions, the
own lives, can be responsible for themselves, and so on. critique of institutions obviously makes no sense. Art that
They believe there is this kind of potential in human beings leaves the museum [e.g. street art, land art, performance
to deal with and manage any burden, going through any art, community art, TL] always has to return to the
difficulty and making it: the American Dream. But it’s museum in the shape of documentation. So whatever you
all a huge lie, and the challenge is to see it as a huge lie do outside of the museum, also in contemporary art, has
that was only invented to terrorize people. To say to them: cultural value only if it is afterwards represented in the
why are you poor, you have to make an effort, you have museum in the form of documentation.
to struggle, you have to constantly improve and update
yourself. Somehow, and at a certain point in time, we have TL: In an interview I did with Luc Boltanski [Celikates
to be relieved from this blackmail. and Lijster, 2015] he argued, following Isabelle Graw,
When I was a child and responsive to these things, I that the economic valuation of art works can never persist
was always fascinated by these Russian posters, saying: let without the aesthetic valuation by critics, curators, artists,
us reach the level of the current day. This presupposed that and the like. If the two merge this is also destructive for the
we are somehow always behind. Stalin, who was a good economic valuation. Do you agree with this analysis, and

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should this reassure us that market forces could never take I tend to think that the model I proposed is probably
over the art world completely? a model for secularized culture that started with the French
Revolution and ended with the end of communism. Now
BG: I think that art becomes more and more like a luxury this system of culture in general collapses—it still survives
product, like china or perfume. Everyone can make art, of course, this process of collapsing takes very long, and
but not everybody makes a living from art. But if you don’t maybe the archives survive in another way. The first
make a living from art, it doesn’t mean that you’re not libraries were private collections, the first art collections
an artist. If you speak about professional art, you speak were in the pyramids, and they survived. So maybe they
about making a living from art. Then it becomes simply a will survive in a certain way, in so far as they survive the
segment of the general market, and it’s the same as Armani current model.
design and so on. If you look at creative districts in China,
you see design, cutlery stores, fashion, art galleries, all
together. But then it has nothing to do with general society.

TL: Is that so different from seventeenth-century Holland,


when art was also a luxury product?

BG: The institution of the museum, as you know, was


created after the French Revolution. The revolutionaries
took the objects of use from the aristocracy and instead of
destroying them, they disenfranchised them and exhibited
them, but forbade their use. It was a decision in between
iconoclasm and iconophilia. What Duchamp later did was
a repetition of this gesture—it is the same gesture.
This museum is a public space. Privatization recreates
the situation as it was before the French Revolution, but
then we can no longer speak of public institutions and we
lose historical awareness. So, the problem is not whether
Isabelle Graw or someone else finds some painting beautiful,
according to a certain aesthetic theory. The question is: is
a certain artwork historically representative, so that it can
be put in the museum? For a private collector, this question
has no relevance, because it is his taste that matters, and
not the archival importance. After writing Über das Neue, I
was invited to Switzerland, where they organize schools for
leading European collectors. I told them I considered these
collections as installations and not as museums, because
the installation is the assemblage of objects according to a
certain taste. At the moment you privatize, you get involved
in private passions and relationships that have nothing to
do with an archive.

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Notes Reference
1  roys, Über das Neue. References in
G —— Bastelaere, Dirk van, et al. 2013. Boris
this text are to the English translation: Groys in Context, ed. Solange de Boer.
On the New, trans. G.M. Goshgarian Amsterdam: Octavo.
(London and New York: Verso, 2014). —— Celikates, Robin, and Thijs Lijster.
2 This brings Groys’ theory of artistic 2015. ‘Criticism, Critique, and
innovation close to Jacques Rancière’s Capitalism: Luc Boltanski in
idea that aesthetics and politics are Conversation with Robin Celikates
both characterized by la partage du and Thijs Lijster’. In Spaces for
sensible, the redistribution of what can Criticism: Shifts in Contemporary Art
be seen, heard, etc. See Rancière 2010. Discourses, ed. Thijs Lijster et al.
Amsterdam: Valiz.
—— Groys, Boris. 1988. Gesamtkunstwerk
Stalin. Münich: Carl Hanser.
—. 1992. Über das Neue: Versuch einer
Kulturökonomie. Münich: Carl Hanser;
On the New, transl. G.M. Goshgarian.
London and New York: Verso, 2014.
—. 1997. Logik der Sammlung: Am Ende
des musealen Zeitalters. Münich: Carl
Hanser.
—. 2003. Topologie der Kunst. Münich:
Carl Hanser.
—. 2006. Das kommunistische
Postskriptum. Frankfurt am Main:
Suhrkamp.
—. 2008. Art Power. Cambridge, MA,
and London: MIT Press.
—. 2009. ‘Comrades of Time’, E-flux
#11, retrieved on 4 December 2017,
www.e-flux.com/journal/11/61345/
comrades-of-time/.
—— Jameson, Fredric. 1998. The Cultural
Turn: Selected Writings on the
Postmodern 1983–1998. London and
New York: Verso.
—— Lyotard, Jean-François. 1991. The
Inhuman: Reflections on Time, transl.
Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel
Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University
Press.
—— Rancière, Jacques. 2010. Dissensus: On
Politics and Aesthetics, transl. Steven
Corcoran. London and New York:
Continuum.
—— Srnicek, Nick, and Alex Williams.
2015. Inventing the Future:
Postcapitalism and a World Without
Work. London and New York: Verso.

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142
Outside the
White Cube
A Gedanken-
experiment
Akiem Helmling
In 1961, in his last public lecture at the symposium ‘Where Do by now become reality, as it is even demanded of the public at
We Go from Here’ at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, large. By using the words ‘this time’, Duchamp places an ascetic
Marcel Duchamp said: revolution within the context of the situation created by the aes-
thetic revolution. The one leading to the other.
In conclusion, I hope that this mediocrity, conditioned
by too many factors foreign to art per se, will this time Just like a hundred years ago, when the wider audience and most
bring a revolution on the ascetic level, of which the gen- artists (perhaps even Duchamp himself) were not yet capable of
eral public will not even be aware and which only a few fully comprehending the consequences and meaning of an aes-
initiates will develop on the fringe of a world blinded by thetic revolution, we may now again wonder whether we are capa-
economic fireworks. ble of comprehending the possible meaning of an ascetic.
The great artist of tomorrow will go underground. At the time, it took roughly fifty years to realize the aes-
thetic revolution (the idea of the ready-made stems from 19151 but
At the time of Duchamp’s lecture, he himself had no longer been wasn’t fully accepted as art until around 1960). Now, almost sixty
a member of the underground for many years. And now, almost years have passed since Duchamp predicted the next revolution.
sixty years later, we may undoubtedly conclude that Marcel So, perhaps this is an interesting moment to ask ourselves what
Duchamp was one of the most important artists of the twentieth the deeper meaning of an ascetic revolution might be. And it may
century. Perhaps even because of this elevated status Duchamp is also be interesting to not only explore exactly what Duchamp was
also a symbol for the greatest change in art in the past hundred implying with his statement, but especially to look for the poten-
years: the advent of the White Cube, and the subsequent apparent- tial openings hidden within. We could attempt to regard it as not
ly total liberation of the artwork. This is a process with major and just a simple critique of the market, as just a call to artists to care
far-reaching social, aesthetic, and also economic consequences— less about the market and work even more from an independent,
both within and outside art—and forms the basis of our current autonomous position. To see it not as a seemingly innocent state-
concept of art. It is a turning point in the history of modern art. ment, but as a sign of something much bigger. Perhaps even big-
Over the past hundred years we have seen how the artwork ger than Duchamp himself may have imagined. Something that
was first freed from all the constraints of the painted canvas in a logically connects to the aesthetic revolution that we know, the
gilded frame and then we’ve had to learn to accept that an artwork liberation of the artwork. But then what is that something?
can take any form or shape imaginable, including material or im-
material. An artwork can be anything and anything can be an Prelude to a Broken Arm
artwork. In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to elevate to It now seems hard to imagine that the Board of the Society of
the status of art the very works of which it was doubtful whether Independent Artists reacted so shocked to Duchamp’s entry of
they could be art at all. Or, to put it differently: to change non-art the readymade in 1917—an overturned urinal bearing the title
into art. This was very much facilitated by the White Cube, the Fountain. The official statement by which the work was refused
exhibition space that isolated artefacts from their surroundings, for the exhibition at the time was: ‘The Fountain may be a very
thereby bestowing upon them the aura of an artwork. useful object in its place, but its place is not an art exhibition and
Duchamp’s readymades are the best-known examples of it is, by no definition, a work of art.’ The status the work now has,
this, because for the first time apparently ordinary non-art objects a hundred years on, may be regarded as proof of the actual feasi-
were suddenly transformed into artworks. This is also why the bility of what is humanly unimaginable. Perhaps not only within
White Cube became the basis of a fundamentally renewed con- art, but in general, also because the 1917 judgement was made by
cept of art. Duchamp called it the transition from the retinal (the fellow experts of the platform for avant-garde art. It is interesting
visible, the perceivable) to the mental. In the lecture quoted above, that despite the work’s unique position in recent art history there
Duchamp claims that this process—the aesthetic revolution—has is also debate about its material genesis. For one thing, a letter

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146 147
from 1917 has turned up in which Duchamp writes to his sister licas of the original ready-made urinal (in the technical-material
Suzanna that the work Fountain, signed by a female artist friend, sense of the word) made by craftsmen, may also be regarded as
had been presented to him as a gift. (‘One of my female friends a sign of Duchamp’s ambivalent attitude towards the artwork as
who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porce- such. The knowledge that the readymades we see today in a muse-
lain urinal as a sculpture; since there was nothing indecent about um context are, with one exception,2 not ‘ready-mades’ but ‘ready-
it, there was no reason to reject it.’) Experts have since discov- mades-made-to-order’, lends the work a material complexity that
ered that this unknown artist was most likely the Baroness Elsa usually goes unnoticed by the public.
von Freitag-Loringhoven, a well-known figure in the New York
avant-garde art scene, who was influenced by Duchamp. But there In another aspect as well, the materiality of Fountain is significant-
is also a different story, in which the artist Joseph Stella and art ly different from that of most other works of art. As the Society of
collector Walter Arensberg claim to have been with Duchamp Independent Artists deemed the work unacceptable, it was never
when he bought the urinal from J.L. Mott Iron Works at 118 Fifth truly exhibited. The reason why, in spite of this, the work seems
Avenue. According to them, Duchamp then took it to his studio so familiar to many people certainly has to do with the in total 15
at 33 West 67th Street, turned it on its back and signed it ‘R. Mutt replicas that Duchamp ordered between 1950 and 1964—33 years
1917’. The only established fact in the matter seems to be that the after he submitted the original version. These replicas are now on
term ready-made was already in use by the end of the nineteenth display in museums all over the world as the Fountain. Probably
century for industrially produced objects in order to distinguish these replicas would not even exist if not for the fact that Alfred
them from handmade products. That is why it is important to Stieglitz took a photograph of the original object at the 291 Art
distinguish between the two different conceptual meanings of Gallery, in 1917. In this photograph we see the work in front of
‘ready-made’ and ‘readymade’. The former defines the technical the painting Warriors by Marsden Hartley, with the entry label
material nature of an object, in which the term indicates that an also visible. The photograph became known later because it was
object was produced by machines instead of by hand (ready-made published in the second issue of the art and Dada magazine The
versus made-to-order). And the latter defines a conceptual artistic Blind Man. It is the only documentation of the work before it van-
approach as Duchamp applied in in his work. Duchamp has also ished without a trace. Of course, it is tempting to speculate about
referred to his readymade as a ‘manifest’. what would have become of the work if it had been exhibited, but
While the question of the technical-material authorship its rejection does not appear to be the main reason for its even-
of Fountain may perhaps never be completely solved and we can tual success. But then what makes the work so important? And
therefore not say with absolute certainty that the object ‘Foun- especially: how is it possible that an artwork without the work
tain’ was really found, moved, and signed by Duchamp himself, itself, an image that only exists as a documented work, becomes
it would also be too simplistic to immediately conclude that so important in the end?
Duchamp would therefore no longer be the author of the work. The main pitfall is perhaps to regard the work as an objet
Within this context it is important to be aware of the fact that trouvé. This is a term once coined by Pablo Picasso but it is also
Duchamp had already been working on the idea of readymades frequently used in the context of Duchamp’s work, especially with
for years. For example, in 1915 he had already declared a snow regard to Fountain. In the original material sense of the word the
shovel a readymade by labelling it Prelude to a Broken Arm. And, term is in fact incorrect when applied to the replicas that are now
finally, the fact that Duchamp had entered the work under a pseu- on display in museums all over the world. These are not artefacts
donym does not seem to provide any insight into the material au- produced by machines, but handcrafted objects—replicas com-
thorship of the work either. It is important to note that Duchamp missioned by Duchamp and produced specifically for museum
only presented his readymade en public and under his own name collections. An even bigger danger is that the term objet trouvé
many years later. The fact that at that time most of the original evokes the wrong suggestion: that Fountain was just something
readymades had long since been lost and that Duchamp had rep- found by Duchamp that gained significance only by presenting

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148 149
it within the context of a museum. This object-motivated argu- An image that on the one hand wasn’t a classical ‘installation shot’
ment is contradictory to Duchamp’s thinking, as it emphasizes as we know it today, but on the other hand had exactly the same ef-
the retinal, the visible, and not the mental. Based on Duchamp’s fect. Because the beholder is eliminated from the image it gives the
thinking and the fact that he also called his readymades ‘mani- impression of a contemplative art experience, giving us the feeling
fests’, Fountain should primarily be regarded as a concept declaré. of participating in the presentation without actually being there.
‘Readymade’ is then used to describe a particular artistic process, The photograph displaces the work from its spatial location to a
not in the technical-material sense of the word. medial dimension. This is also why, as Brian O’Doherty explains
Starting from the question whether it was at all possible to in his 1976 book Inside the White Cube, the installation shot can be
make works that are non-art, Duchamp was also always looking regarded as a cultural icon of the twentieth century. The century
for ‘a work without art’, which may perhaps also be interpreted as in which the traditional notion of Ernst Gombrich that one always
‘art without a work’. This would be in line with Duchamp’s opin- had to have seen a work in reality in order to experience it, slowly
ion that art is a process of doing, not of making. To him art works but surely lost its meaning by the advent of new media and virtual-
where primarily important because collectors could buy them so ization of society.
that artists would have an income and be able to make art.
While this development could be seen as a threat to the aura of
The New art, it can also be understood as a logical development of art as
It is not surprising that Boris Groys in his 1992 book Über a discipline defined by continuous change. Or, as Adorno states
das Neue: Versuch einer Kulturökonomie (On the New) refers to in his Aesthetic Theory: ‘It is self-evident that nothing concerning
Duchamp’s readymades—and particularly to Fountain—when in- art is self-evident anymore, not its inner life, not its relation to the
troducing his concept of ‘the new’. Groys describes ‘the new’ as world, not even its right to exist.’3 Or: the only constant in art is
a moment of valorization change: a situation when something this not being self-evident of all its elements: production, percep-
that we had regarded as non-relevant (non-valuable) until then, tion, meaning; the artist, the work, the beholder. In art everything
suddenly acquires a cultural and therefore an economic value. can change.
This valorization is often balanced by something else losing its Convinced that in art everything must change, curator,
value to us. From this perspective, the work Fountain was not director, and driving force behind the then recently opened Mu-
created when Duchamp decided to submit a urinal for an exhibi- seum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, Johannes Cladders, wrote
tion in 1917. Nor in 1950, when the art dealer Sidney Janis asked the essay ‘Das Antimuseum: Gedanken zur Kunstplege’ (The An-
Duchamp to declare a urinal—which Janis had bought himself for ti-Museum: Thoughts on Art Presentation), in 1968. This text was
an exhibition in his New York gallery—to be art by signing it. It part of a ‘cassette’ published on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Be-
was created at the very moment when the first people, like Sidney leg: Kunstwerke der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts aus dem
Janis, suddenly realized that a urinal on its back could be more Besitz der Stadt Mönchengladbach’ (Evidence: Artworks from
than a urinal on its back, shortly before a wider group of experts the Second Half of the Twentieth Century from the Collection of
also saw cultural value in putting a urinal on his back, signing the City of Mönchengladbach). Cladders wanted to introduce a
it, and calling it Fountain. It was long before replicas of Fountain broader perspective for the presentation of art by regarding the in-
would be exhibited all over the world. It was the moment when stitute of the ‘museum’ first and foremost as a spiritual home. This
it changed from non-art into art, without actually existing. ‘The idea is especially reflected in the museum’s new building because
new’ is a change of perspective, exclusively founded on a mental of the homely dimensions in which the art is displayed. Com-
process. ‘The new’ understood as a reframing of cultural values, missioned by Johannes Cladders and designed by Hans Hollein,
not of objects. the new museum opened in 1982. Not only did Cladders see the
‘The new’ as purely a communicative process generated by museum as an architectural, contemplative space, he felt it was
a photograph that was published in a magazine a few years before. important to approach an exhibition as an experimental meeting

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place as well. By publishing three-dimensional boxes (the afore- more beautiful and more pleasant. On the other side the group
mentioned ‘cassettes’) instead of traditional catalogues he made that, by contrast, tries to make that which does not yet exist. It
this element a full-fledged part of the exhibition instead of just is in this second group, according to Sandberg, that the work is
being purely supplemental. In a sense, by doing so he also opened created in which the new reveals itself to us:
up the institutional space by not limiting it exclusively to the space
inside the museum walls. the first group calms us
In his essay ‘Anti-Museum…’, Cladders was driven by his the public admires their work immediately
wish to overcome the museum as an aloof and cold institute and the critics are raving about it
he saw a chance to achieve this through Dada and Duchamp’s and forget it
work especially. He builds on this and tries to translate these the others shock our feelings
thoughts to the institutional sector. Cladders doesn’t use the term they grip our interest, they stimulate
‘anti’ here as a rejection of what is, but much more as a kind of or simply repel us
contrast to it. Just as Duchamp’s art—which Cladders also calls and future generations will appreciate them
Anti-Art—has nonetheless remained art, Cladders believed that using terms like ‘grand’ and beautiful
it was the Anti-Museum’s fate to still remain a museum. The An-
ti-Museum is therefore not so much a revolutionary programme, Sandberg concludes his argument for a different vision on art by
but rather a broadening of the possibilities of what is already stating that ‘…that place of today, where the future is at home, has
there. He noted that this possible broadening and shifting is typi- no property, otherwise it will soon be a museum again.’
cally something that has always taken place in art. This is why the
history of art is always also the history of different concepts and In short: the very moment that artefacts become part of a muse-
models of art. Palaeolithic art, the art of the Renaissance, of an- um collection they are no longer synonymous with the new, but
tiquity, and of the Gothic Age are just as different from each other merely evidence of something that at one time was new. They are
as that of the Romantic era from the art of today. In this respect witnesses of a different age. This is also a big dilemma in the
he agreed with Adorno that if you include the future in this, you museum/White Cube: on the one hand they need to point out the
cannot take it for granted that art and its concomitant institutes new, on the other hand the new is already no longer new at the
will even still exist then. These two aspects, art and presentation time that it is actually on display, because this makes it part of the
(for which Cladders used the word ‘Kunstpflege’) always coexist, system. It is like Russell’s paradox.
with the museum occupying centre stage. From the sixteen-cen-
tury Wunderkammer via the Historical Museum of the nineteenth The Ethics of Aesthetics
century to the White Cube of today. The dominance of the White Cube as a conceptual framework in
The anti-museum builds on an essay by Willem Sand- contemporary art is emphasized by the extensive infrastructure
berg—Director of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam from 1945 to that has developed around it. We see occupations such as curator,
1964—that was published ten years before in the series ‘kwadraat- media such as contemporary art magazines, and events such as bi-
bladen’ of Steendrukkerij De Jong. In this highly controversial ennials and art fairs. Meanwhile, though, there seems to be some
essay bearing the title ‘Nu: Midden in de XXe eeuw: De kunst kind of emancipation process going on: the mutual emancipation
en het leven’ (Now: In the Middle of the XXth Century: Art and of art and the White Cube.
Life) Sandberg outlined a conceptual framework in which the mu- Whereas the White Cube was once needed to elevate art
seum was not seen as a purely contemplative space, but primarily as such and the White Cube without art was unimaginable, today
as a social space, a space of life. Thereto, Sandberg distinguished both aspects no longer seem to be the case. Nowadays the White
between two groups of art practices. On the one side the group Cube’s primary significance is no longer cultural but much more
that builds on what is already there with the aim of making life economic. In the twentieth century the White Cube still played an

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important role in the question ‘What is art?’ but that same space spectacular crowd puller. Two days after presenting his idea for a
now appears to function primarily as a way of distinguishing be- fountain to Beuys, the artist returned his call and simply said: ‘A
tween artworks on a financial level. Just like artefacts once needed fountain is nice… but I wish to plant 7000 oaks.’ Fuchs responded
the White Cube to be elevated to art and be accepted as such, now with empathy, spontaneously dropped his own idea and accepted
art uses the White Cube mainly to increase its value. This makes that of Beuys. Beuys, also known at the time for his art formula
the question of whether something is art or not a moot point and art=capital, then told Fuchs: ‘Our real capital is not money, but
it changes cultural necessity into economic interest. At the same the agility of human thinking.’ In other words: ‘Es kommt alles auf
time, the White Cube also no longer really needs art to legiti- den Wärmecharakter im Denken an.’
mize itself. The emancipated White Cube is increasingly a shop Now, in 2018, we may conclude that this Wärmecharakter
catering to the market: art, design, fashion. It is fully incorporated im Denken—Fuchs’ empathy for Beuys’ idea—not only left us with
within the capitalist system that we have opted for ourselves. This a spectacular work in which public perception changed from enor-
means that this emancipation is not so much a deliberate choice mous irritation to an enthusiastic embrace, but meanwhile scien-
but rather the result of a situation that is primarily determined by tist too have discovered the work as a unique treasure trove. Never
thinking in terms of profit. before in the history of our planet were so many trees planted at
various locations in the city at one specific moment. Almost forty
In his 2015 Die Kunst und das gute Leben: Über die Ethik der Ästhe- years later, this enables scientists such as Prof. Dr. Thorsten Gaer-
tik (Art and the Good Life: On the Ethics of Aesthetics) Hanno tig to study the degree of density or closure of the soil in relation
Rautenberg observes these developments and in this new econom- to a healthy growth of the trees.
ic position of the White Cube and concomitant infrastructure he The interesting thing about Beuys’ work 7000 Eichen: Stadt-
discerns a paradigm shift in art. Whereas the artists of the twen- verwaldung statt Stadtverwaltung (7000 Oaks: City Forestation
tieth century fought for their autonomy, at the beginning of the Instead of City Administration) is that there is both a form and a
twenty-first century it looks as if there is a relapse to the situation counter-form of it. There is a form it has now: 7000 oaks, all with
in which the artist is an ‘executive agent’, someone who makes a basalt stone partly embedded in the soil next to them, in and
work in commission. Also a situation in which huge exhibitions around the town of Kassel. As these stones were placed at the
such as documenta—the ‘conscience of art’, that once started from same time the trees were planted and had to be stored somewhere
the questions ‘What is art?’ and ‘Why art at all?’—commission the in the meantime, there was a temporary counter-form as a wedge-
works that fit the concept of the exhibition from the artists. If the shaped pile of 7000 basalt stones on Friedrichsplatz. A temporary
beginning of the twentieth century was defined by the advent of storage, a temporary monument, a presence that underlined the
the readymades, now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, urgency of the project. By choosing oaks, which can live up to
it looks like we are back again at the ‘made-to-orders’: delivery on 1500 years, Beuys wanted to put the human scale into perspective
demand. Unlike the readymades, they originate within an existing while at the same time realizing the unimaginable. This aspect
system rather than outside of it. was underlined by placing the stones next to the trees. This means
that the present form can again be seen as the counter-form for
In an article in the Dutch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdam- a later stage, when the trees eventually disappear. To then be re-
mer of 9 September 2015, Rudi Fuchs, artistic director of Docu- garded as yet another counterform for the completion of the work:
menta 7 (1982) and as such responsible for the historical work the moment that the stones have also disintegrated into individual
7000 Eichen (7000 Oaks) by Joseph Beuys, straightforwardly ex- molecules.
plained that he too had clear ideas about the content of ‘his’ Doc- Beuys took a very pragmatic attitude to his pile of basalt
umenta at the time. He envisioned a large Beuys fountain or basin, stones: he too liked to see it disappear sooner rather than later.
a sort of spectacular water display that would serve as a symbol This is why he asked the town residents to help him plant the trees
for Beuys’ notion of energy and also as a striking, accessible, and as quickly as possible and thus make the pile of stones disappear.

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7000 Oaks therefore perhaps says just as much about the disap- important element in all of his art. Unlike other artists, Beuys
pearance of this counter-form as it does about the form, the trees, never feared that the unambiguousness of words would threat-
that is now still there. And if you wish to take it even further, in en the imaginative nature of art or could make an artwork look
the end this work is perhaps not even about the materiality of it, simplistic. Perhaps we will one day become convinced that these
the stones or the trees, but purely about the mental awareness of recordings are closer to the essence of Beuys’ work than the ma-
looking at art and life in a different way. terial forms currently in museum collections all over the world.
As, for instance, the work Wille Gefühl Form from 1980, which
Although neither Beuys nor Duchamp ever used the word ‘Anti’ is in the collection of the Boymans Van Beuningen Museum in
with regard to their art practice it is often associated with their Rotterdam. The interesting thing about this work is that Boymans
work by art historians. Outside the field of art, the less subtle is also in possession of the video recordings of the public debate
term ‘charlatan’ is also frequently used. In Beuys’ case people during which this work came to be. The work consists of a large
mainly saw an unacceptable contradiction between his commer- chalk drawing on a blackboard in which Beuys illustrates his en-
cial success and the anthropological concept of art he advocat- ergy-anthroposophical notion of sculpture. When Beuys can no
ed: Der erweiterter Kunstbegriff (The expanded notion of art) and longer clearly formulate what he is trying to express, he goes to
the soziale Plastik (social sculpture) that resulted from it. It was a the blackboard in order to say it in a drawing. Language and im-
conceptual framework in which Beuys saw mankind as a work of age, artwork and discourse thus merge fluently.
art, a kind of continuous global performance that was defined by Interestingly, although Beuys could be sometimes hard to
those taking part in it, or, in his words, was sculpturally formed follow due to his specific use of language, there is great coherence
by them. in all of his public debates and speeches. Instead of seeing him
In this line of thinking mankind can not only be regarded as the ‘felt-and-fat’ artist, from a different perspective one could
as a social corpus, but also as an aesthetic sculpture that is being justifiably see him as the artist of the word. As with Duchamp, in
defined by the behaviour of all individuals. This opens up the per- Beuys’ work it is especially the concepts he created rather than
spective of mankind as a work of art, or even more concise: the the works themselves that take central stage and have led to in-
notion of mankind as an artwork and being-human as art. As this novations in art. Building on Beuys’ thinking, the creation of a
artwork is formed by us, it follows that we take up the position concept should not be seen as just a neologism but also as an
of an artist. Just as a sculptor shapes a sculpture from a piece artistic, sculptural process. Apart from this, the choice to create
of clay, we shape the artwork called mankind together, wherein an imaginary ‘course of work’—a sequence of works—instead of
human creativity is the key to doing this in a relevant and con- a course of life seems just as logical as his conviction to see us
ceptually interesting manner. The fact that works by Beuys were humans not so much as productive but rather as creative beings.
at one point among the most expensive in the world doesn’t take And from that follows his notion: ‘Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler’.
anything away from this concept. Especially at the pinnacle of A call that was often mistakenly understood to mean a possibility,
his career Beuys increasingly focused on pure social sculpture, but according to Beuys being an artist is not a choice. It is an in-
leaving the material, the White Cube, and commerce behind and escapable part of human existence if we see mankind as creative
using his income from the White Cube infrastructure towards the instead of productive.
realization of projects outside of it. Via the ‘expanded notion of art’ it is possible to regard hu-
man thinking as a process that goes from rational to sculptural.
Thanks to the great number of recordings that have since be- This allowed Beuys to break through the physical limitations of
come available via the Internet we have a pretty good insight into the White Cube and have this process take place within ourselves,
Beuys’ thinking. Whereas Duchamp used language primarily through art. In doing so, he built on the ideas of Nietzsche and his
with a dense playfulness (for example in the work L.H.O.O.Q from ‘Umwertung aller Werte’ (revaluation of all values) and was in line
1919), for Beuys the dialogue about the work has always been an with Erich Fromm by placing ‘to be’ above ‘to have’.

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Outside the White Cube Looking back, the interesting thing about this action is that it
Within the context of the 1972 São Paulo Biennial, the Czech took place before this type of happenings were automatically
philosopher and author Vilém Flusser stated that the crisis of art public events via the Internet and social media. Although no
is a crisis of its presentation. Duchamp and Beuys are perhaps exact record exists of how many people actually visited Hsieh
the clearest evidence of this. It seems rather logical that a mental at his cell in his own house we may assume that the Cage Piece,
work or an ’expanded notion of art’ would take place on a tex- just like Duchamp’s Fountain, became known mainly through its
tual rather than a visual level. This of course is at odds with the documentation and archiving.
mechanism of the White Cube model, as with the disappearance In the years after this Hsieh continued his One Year Perfor-
of the retinal experience it would lose most of its legitimization. mances. In 1980–1981 with Time Clock Piece, in which he punched
Meanwhile we have a situation in which institutions all over the a card in a timeclock every hour and took a photograph of him-
world present ‘artistic ideas’ to the public as ‘retinal works’, while self. This resulted in more than 8700 photographs (365 days times
at the same time excluding much art, especially art that is critical 24 hours), which the artist later edited into a six-minute film that
of the idea of ‘artworks’. showed each photograph for 1/25th of a second. During 1981–
Perhaps the biggest pitfall for art in the twenty-first cen- 1982 Hsieh worked on his Outdoor Piece: for a whole year he did
tury is to not see and not understand the new (in art) because it not enter any buildings or other sheltered spaces, such as trains,
is shown in an inadequate context and/or format. Just as we in- boats, or public toilets. This action was followed up by Rope Piece,
stantly regard a pile of annotated pages in a library as a book, we another one year-long performance in which the artist was tied to
automatically regard anything that is on display in a White Cube the female artist Linda Montano with a rope of 2.4 metres. The
as a work of art. This is the tragedy of the White Cube: where series was concluded with the work No Art Piece, in which the
once it was needed to make way for a new concept of art, it now artist eliminated art from his life for an entire year by not making
starts to be an obstacle for such a new concept. Just like the ‘salon’ art, not talking about art, not looking at anything related to art,
format restrained art in a gilded frame, the White Cube frames not reading about it or entering any art institutions. This is also
art in artworks. And thus, our insight changes: a space that made the only work in the cycle that remains undocumented.
innovation possible now transforms into a space that blocks inno- Tehching Hsieh’s reason for making these five works is
vation. This means that the most progressive trends in art remain not that he is into self-castigation or suffering but has to do with
invisible to the public at large. his conviction that in human ‘being’ the relationship with time
plays an existential role. This role is so crucial that especially
Tehching Hsieh is one example of such a progressive artist. He within the interaction between time and being there is the hid-
not only approaches art as an immaterial discipline, but beyond den possibility of the new, of the unknown. In order to actually
and above that also as a discipline oriented to ‘being’. Born in make this process happen, one needs to take the necessary time,
1950 in Taiwan, he emigrated to the USA when he was 24. Be- which for Hsieh was always one whole year. Hsieh calls this pro-
tween 1978 and 1986, as an illegal immigrant, he completed five cess ‘Doing Time’.
one-year-long performances. One of these was the 1978–1979
Cage Piece, in which he locked himself into a wooden cell of While this cycle can also be seen as an illustration of the ascetic
3.5 x 2.7 x 2.4 metres that contained only a washstand, a lamp, revolution announced by Duchamp—‘a revolution that will devel-
a bucket, and a bed, for a whole year. During that year he did op on the fringe of a world blinded by economic fireworks’4 —Hsieh
not permit himself to talk, read, write, or watch TV, or listen takes this even one step further in his next work. In his Thirteen
to the radio. The entire process was documented by a public Year Plan, 1986–1999 he sets himself the condition to make art
notary who also testified that the artist did not leave the cell. A during these 13 years but not exhibit it. He concludes this action
roommate of his prepared Hsieh’s meals and took out the gar- with the words: ‘I kept myself a life. I passed the dec 31.1999’,
bage. Once or twice a month the action was open to the public. made of cut-out letters glued to a poster. The artist himself has

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said about this work that its completion was also the starting point it would be too simplistic to regard the ascetic revolution as only
for yet another period in which he no longer considered himself a self-reference to his own practice.
an artist. Fact is that this statement was made by an artist who has
Hsieh’s critical-reflective attitude towards art and its infra- dared to think the impossible by regarding non-art as art. Se-
structure can also be found in the work of Gustav Metzger. Born cretly at first, later also publicly. Because we now also know that
in 1926—five years after Beuys—Metzger became known for his Duchamp, in spite of the fact that he manifested his first ready-
manifestos on ‘Auto-destructive Art’, which he started writing in mades already in 1915, didn’t go public with them until around
1959. In these manifestos Metzger called for attention to the trans- 1950. This may be related to a lack of self-confidence but it is also
forming potential of destruction. To him, ‘being’ was primarily quite possible that in 1915 even Duchamp himself wasn’t really
defined by ‘perishing’, for humans as well as for objects. aware of what his idea would eventually come to mean. Perhaps
In the 1970s, Metzger introduced his idea of the ‘Years the call to regard art as a mental instead of a retinal discipline was
without Art’. It was a proposal in which he called on artists not not only aimed at a concrete objective goal but was especially an
to produce any art for three years. This action was often wrongly appeal to himself to arrive at something new. The fact that both
interpreted as an ‘art strike’. By using the word ‘without’, Metzger Fountain and Prelude to a Broken Arm remain retinal artworks in
deliberately placed the artists in a superior position with regard to the traditional form does therefore not contradict his own words
the market, whereas ‘strike’ would imply a subordinate position, but illustrates exactly what his statement aims to achieve: a differ-
such as that of an employee. In Metzger’s view artists, especially ent perspective for art.
because they are autonomous producers, have the option of im-
posing a kind of embargo on the market, simply by not delivering Shortly before he died, Duchamp said about his own work: ‘I’m
what they are asked to deliver. In ‘Years without Art’ this inde- not at all sure that the concept of the readymade isn’t the most im-
pendence is clearly emphasized. portant single idea to come out of my work.’ Is this then perhaps
Although Metzger made no clear statements about whether the essence of Duchamp and is his work in the end exactly about
‘Years without Art’ itself could be considered a work, it seamless- the same theme as that of Beuys: an expansion of the concept of
ly fits in the series of the ‘readymades’ by Duchamp, the ‘Sozialen art? And isn’t Duchamp’s work therefore also not about the works
Plastik’ of Beuys and ‘Doing Time’ of Hsieh. And although these he actually realized but about the new perspective that he intro-
‘works’ originated from different conceptual frameworks, they duced with the readymade?
all seem to also be a search for a concept of art that transcends
the traditional artwork. Duchamp used the strategy of using ma- Art without a Work—Art as a Gedankenexperiment
chine-produced objects in order to make them interchangeable Etymologically, the word ‘ascetism’ comes from the Greek word
and therefore redundant. Beuys, by expanding art from an explic- ‘askeín’ (ἀσκεῖν), which means something like ‘practising’. It was
it discipline of choice to something implicit in human existence. originally used mainly in a religious-philosophical context in the
And Hsieh uses art to come into contact with the unknown. The sense of practising a pure way of living. Through the years, its
resulting works: a urinal on his back, a chalk drawing on a black- meaning was expanded until it was applied to all sorts of things:
board, and a six-minute film, are merely witnesses and thereby renouncing drugs for pleasure, renouncing food, sex, make-up
transcend our idea of a work that refers to itself. and body care, clothing, sleep, protection from heat and cold, a
soft place to sleep, possessions, social relations, the satisfaction
By now we know that at the time of his lecture in Philadelphia, of personal needs, a personal opinion, any form of communica-
Duchamp had already been working in secret on his last work, tion, freedom of movement. And with Duchamp? Is the ascetics
Étant donnés, for more than fifteen years. The work was shown in he calls for about art itself (the artwork), the person behind it
the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1969, according to the artist’s (the artist), or about the final presentation of the work (the public
wish that it wasn’t to be exhibited until after his death. But again, and the institutions)? But then what would be left? Art without

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artworks, without artists, and without public? Non-art that is yet invisible and of which we can only observe the effects. A force
to become art? that, because it is invisible, could be regarded as ascetic and un-
In a BBC interview with Joan Bakewell of 5 June 1968, derground. A force that allows us to experience the new and to do
four months before his death, Duchamp provided more insight something we can’t do. And perhaps even more importantly, thus
into his ideas concerning the ascetic revolution, using the words teaches us to value not-being-able-to-do. To discover that within
‘shock’ instead of revolution and ‘anart’ instead of ascetic. ‘Anart’, art there is a force that allows us to make the leap from the ladder
no art at all, Duchamp explained, is a shock (i.e. a revolution) we have just ascended. To leave behind the things we know and
because it looks at art from a different perspective, as something yield to the unknown. To see and experience things that will re-
we ‘do’ instead of ‘make’. And because this ‘doing’, the being, the main invisible for those who know everything.
action is implicitly linked to being-human, art too is a universal
thing that concerns each and everyone, not just artists. The dif-
ference between artists and not-artists is therefore not a logical
distinction but a purely artificial one, according to Duchamp. The
very moment we accept this, a new concept of art arises. A model
that breaks with the notion of art as a discipline in which artists
make works for the market, and in which humanity is promoted to
the state of artists by the action itself. The ascetic revolution. The
moment in which art is liberated from the primacy of the artist
and the artwork.

Gedankenexperiment
Although the Gedankenexperiment is a concept primarily known
in mathematics and philosophy, it also seems to harbour the pos-
sibility to arrive at a new concept of art. A concept that builds on
art as we know it but at the same time transcends it.
If, for example, we imagine the lives of Beuys and Duchamp
as lines between two points, one symbolizing their birth and the
other their death, we could arrange all their works and thoughts
along this line. And if we then extend this line beyond both the
beginning and the end point, the possibility of seeing speculative
events emerges. On Duchamp’s line, for example, we may find
that he already saw chess—which he practiced at a high level in
his later years—as a readymade as well, comparable to Fountain,
something that just is. Something the meaning and importance
of which are determined by ourselves. And if we were to do the
same thing with other lines—those of Beuys, Metzger, Hsieh, and
yours too—we may also find that all these lines are not complete-
ly straight but start to curve at some point. Like the curvature
Einstein discovered in his own thought experiment in the space-
time model and which became the basis for his general theory of
relativity. A curvature that is caused by a force that itself remains

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Notes Bibliography
1  he website of the MoMA states that
T —— Adorno,Theodor W. Ästhetische
Bicycle Wheel from 1913 was the first Theorie. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag,
readymade, declared by Duchamp. 1973.
But until now there is no proper proof —— Beuys, Joseph. ‘Zur Aktion. 7000
that this object was actually regarded Eichen.ʼ In Documenta 7. Edited by
as a work of art by Duchamp itself. Saskia Bos, pp. 44–47. Kassel: D+V
Objectively, it is also not following the Paul Dierichs GmbH & Co, 1982.
idea of a readymade because it is a —— Cladders, Johannes. Reden und Texte,
sculptural combination of two un- 1967–1978: Eine Auswahl.
connected objects. As also described Mönchengladbach: Städtisches
on the website of the MoMA: ‘I had Museum Abteiberg, 2009.
the happy idea to fasten a bicycle —— Duchamp, Marcel. Die Schriften 1.
wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it Zürich: Regenbogen-Verlag, 1981.
turn ... To see that wheel turning was —— Fuchs, Rudi. ʻBomen en mensen.ʼ
very soothing, very comforting … De Groene Amsterdammer no. 37, 2015.
I enjoyed looking at it, just as I enjoy —— Groys, Boris. Über das Neue: Versuch
looking at the flames dancing in a eine Kulturökonomie. Munich: Carl
fireplace.’ Hanser Verlag, 1992.
2 In addition to the original version —— Fromm, Erich. Haben oder Sein:
of Fountain, 16 other versions of Die seelichen Grundlagen einer neuen
the work are known. All except two Gesellschaft. Munich: Deutscher
are handmade reproductions of the Taschenbuch Verlag, 1979.
original work. For a list of the works: —— Hoffmann, Rolf. Hommage a Cladders.
www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/27/ Mönchengladbach: Museumsverein
duchamp.php. Mönchengladbach, 1984.
3 Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, —— Menke, Christoph. Die Kraft der Kunst.
transl. Robert Hullot-Kentor (London Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2013.
and New York: Continuum, 1977). —— O’Doherty, Brian. In der weißen Zelle:
4 See the quote at the beginning of this Inside the White Cube. Berlin: Merve
essay. Verlag, 1996.
—. Atelier und Galerie: Studio and Cube.
Berlin : Merve Verlag, 2012.
—— Rauterberg, Hanno. Die Kunst und das
gute Leben: Über die Ethik der Ästhetik.
Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2015.
—— Sandberg, Willem. Nu: Midden in de
XXe eeuw (Kwadraatblad). Amsterdam:
Steendrukkerij De Jong, 1959. 
—— Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus logico-
philosophicus: Logische-philosophische
Abhandlung. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp
Verlag, 1963.

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164
The Paradox
of the New
Institution
On Time and
Imagination
Bojana Kunst
The Paradox of the New Institution utter examples of it. The art institutions themselves are deeply
Something perplexing is happening with the precarious work of embedded in the constant use of vulnerability as a main social
contemporary artists, which is most noticeable in project-based capital today: not only that many of them are working with a very
art institutions. I am thinking of those institutions that are di- poorly paid or voluntary work force (and paradoxically this espe-
verging from the historical model of national institutions, that ap- cially goes for the ones that are the most stable and can use their
peared together with the late capitalist economy from the 1990s symbolic value for even greater exploitation), but these ‘labourers’
on, and that mainly support contemporary performance practic- also work under vulnerable and unstable conditions that require
es and the production of projects. These non-governmental, in- the constant implication of protective measures. The insecurity
dependent institutions producing and supporting contemporary is caused by several interrelated factors, strongly influencing the
performance, dance, and visual art projects, are the inheritors of production in the contemporary art institutions. Among these are
the specific politic and economic situation of the early 1990s and the persistent threats of being cut off from (government) fund-
haven´t changed much since then, even if their conditions have, ing, the always changing bureaucratic regulations, which demand
and very much so. Those houses and spaces mostly arose from a continuous production of quantitatively measurable works, and
particular situation in Europe in the beginning of the 1990s, a sit- the shift of the public interest to an individualized notion of the
uation that was the result of economic growth, the fall of the Ber- public, to the market and private taste. Paradoxically, all these de-
lin wall, the rise of neoliberalism, internationalization and overall mands are also related to the need to continuously produce new,
economization of production and creative imagination, the rise ground-breaking, and cutting-edge works of art, the kind of art
of the creative and attractive cities, and the discovery of the East projects that open up new experiences for the audiences and are
(and South) of Europe. The model, which was somehow aimed at open to the future. To protect their own vulnerability, the institu-
supporting international, engaged, and daring practices through tions have to constantly reach out, develop themselves primarily
international collaboration and co-production, and which gave as social places, and give a new and attractive form to human
support to nomadic, highly educated, internationally oriented art- productivity: they have not only to develop but also to stage their
ists, is nowadays deeply questionable and full of paradoxes. This own public, exhibit their own audience. Only in this way can they
is because of the changed economic and ideological situation, endure the clash of temporalities between continuous need for
caused by overall governmental precarization. Isabell Lorey has measurement, evaluation on the one hand and aesthetic invention
described the process of governing through continuous precari- on the other, which finds its perfect form in the temporal project.
zation, the establishment of certain social links, structures, rela-
tions and dynamics in society precisely through the production Temporality of Production
of a pertinent feeling of fear and insecurity (Lorey 2015). In this Historically the term ‘project’ was used in the production of arts
sense, the very daily reality of the art institution is also governed in the 1960s, mostly as a description of highly heterogeneous
by precarity—with the accelerated, regulated, and evaluated pro- practices that entail collaboration with other authors, the blur-
cess of production, where the only possibility is to self-produce ring of the boundaries between art and life, and a de-hierarchi-
continuously while struggling with politicians, marketing process- zation of the ways of working. Nowadays, project has another
es, and continuous self-invention. At first sight such institutions meaning. It can still keep its experimental and heterogenous
appear far from being closed or bound to space in a traditional nature, but at the same time these processes are homogenous
sense, but rather flexible, continuously on the look-out for young in relation to time: a project has to be future-oriented, it has to
and inventive artists, producing concepts, intervening in the sur- deliver in the future what is already imagined as the proposal
rounding, and so on. However, such a mode of production should at its beginning. There is a temporal loop between present and
be considered in relation to the fear of insecurity: art institutions the future in the project, which I name ‘projective temporality’
are not exceptions from governmental precarization, but so deeply (Kunst 2015). Projective temporality is one of the reasons why
involved in its normalization that in many cases they have become artistic work and creative industries can be analyzed in close

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168 169
connection with capitalist production processes and why we can and introduce a different management of working. If opening up
at the same time observe a disappearance of a constitutive place the institution only means more production and even more accel-
for art in society; this disappearance is closely connected with erated processes of organizing, logistical cleverness and drama-
various forms of temporality. Projective temporality influences turgical management, then we have a problem: what changes are
the acceleration of imaginative and creative work, the furthering only the ways in which, through flexible and precarious modes of
of the transformation and the new and it causes even more rad- working, the hierarchies are re-established in a new way. What
ical affective individuation of the subject. The rigid connection is actually new are the temporal modes of working, where also
between work and the future does not give rise to changes in artists are becoming organizers of their own subjectivities and
ways of being and creating but is connected to administrating projects, skilled in logistics, organization, projection, but at the
the contexts of the future and recognizing future values on the same time have to be ready to constantly improvise and take risks.
artistic market. There is something destructive about projective These modes of working are somehow in a very interesting way
temporality: it opens up numerous possibilities, but it does not aesthetically mirrored in many participatory art events, which I
really open up the differences as well. The ultimate horizon of understood as a way of giving aesthetic expression to the social
the work is always the completion of the project itself. The fu- form of productivity, making visible this social play of production
ture is projected as equivalent or somehow proportionate to the and practising it inside the institutions themselves. This social
present. It is presented as a continuity of the present: the future productivity is made visible as a measurable and recognizable val-
which is already foreseen as such in the project itself. ue, however at the same time, exhibited as the experience of some-
Such temporality influences are also the way institutions thing ungraspable and always flexible, and therefore ‘democratic’.
are working today: most of the time functioning as logistical and
production knots for many simultaneous projects, which have A Misty Core
to continuously compete in cleverness, cunning, and tactical All institutions (not only artistic institutions) have a dreamy core,
strength, but at the same time also nourish the values of collab- one so fundamental and unavoidable, that it also endangers the
oration and friendship among cultural agents and the surround- very institution it enables. It is essential to consider this core
ing society to keep the affective side of project as an open future when reflecting on the process of institutionalization, especial-
possibility. Interesting is also that exactly this need to develop as ly in relation to the precarity of human beings. Such a core can
daring institutions—i.e. flexible, social, and communicative places be described as a dreamy, foggy, steamy, evaporating matter of
where art is not only produced but the whole experience of art imagination that brings people together in the process of institu-
(including the work process and the post-effect of the work) is tionalization: imagination is the condition of the institution. The
curated, managed, and organized—in many ways also changed the institution arises from the mist and vapours of the social imag-
conservative, traditional institutions and opened up their produc- ination, and only through this unstable matter can the change
tion to different collaborations with freelancing and independent be approached. Cornelious Castoriadis is well known for relating
authors. However, that does not mean that there are now more this question of the new to the imagination, that is to the capacity
possibilities for the artists to develop continuous and stable work, ‘that something other than what exists is bringing itself into be-
it rather means there is an even faster circulation of authors, the ing, and bringing itself into being as new or as other’ (Castoriadis
speeding up of their biographies, with very little chance for con- 1987, p. 185). Any human being can, in principle, re-imagine what
tinuity and decelerated development of their work. At the same another human being has imagined. This imagined world of signi-
time, new collaborations do not necessarily change how institu- fication allows us ‘to create for ourselves a world - or to present to
tions operate. Even if the aesthetic hierarchies could be changed ourselves something of which, without the imagination, we would
(like, for example, the boundaries between performance and ex- know nothing and we could say nothing’ (Castoridis 1987, p. 366,
hibition, between art genres and disciplines), the institutional hi- also De Cock 2013). But this radical imagination, which Castori-
erarchies mostly remain the same; they only change their pace adis approaches as a rupture of reality, is a perplexing institution-

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al condition: it is the very condition of the instituting processes a conference meeting but was also and at the same time a tempo-
and at the same time is part of the core of the institutional vio- rary retreat for refugees. The Green Park theatre is located in this
lence. Although an institution is actually made up and imagined, city park, where just before the conference in 2015, still hundreds
this same institution, when instituted, tries to erase more or less of people were sleeping before moving on to what was then still
violently this irrational, misty, impossible core and build a monu- an open route through the Balkans to the countries of Western
ment to itself in the form of solid spaces, rules of behaviour and Europe. Here, Athena Athanasiou was talking about the paradoxi-
protocols, and archival possessions of the past. In this erasure the cal condition of the institution, the condition that we have to take
very fact of self-creation is erased, this social mist and dream at its into the consideration especially at the present moment, which is
core. Or to put it differently, in Castoriadis’ words: ‘Alienation oc- characterized by both distrust of the institution and institutional
curs when society does not recognize in the imaginary of institu- failure (both actually coming from all sides of the political spec-
tions something that is its own product, and when it does not see trum). On the one hand, neoliberalism contains a deep distrust in
itself as instituting as well as instituted’ (Castoriadis 1987, p. 336). institutions, especially the ones in the public interest. On the oth-
I would like to connect this line of thought to the notion er hand, we are also experiencing a failure of the public (and with
of precarity, or rather to the precarious conditions of instituting them also artistic) institutions and the erasure of their imaginary
processes. The social imaginary, which I compare here to the mist core as a result of the control of productive and temporal rhythms
and dreams, to the clouds of imagination, is in fact utterly precar- through which the future is produced (modernity, progressivity,
ious. That’s why it was compared many times to the inflammatory acceleration of production, politics as logistics and perfection of
dreams, or to the phantasmagorias to which, as was the belief at organization, continuous control of the new with the procedures
the beginning of modernity (when our current institutions were of evaluation, and so on). I still vividly remember Athanasiou’s
formed) particularly women and children were sensible. Imagi- powerful proposition about the paradoxical power of the institu-
nation could harm their bodies and well-being, it could kindle tions: how they are necessary to sustain human beings and how
their passions and transform them into hysterics and lunatics. But they can also be violent, and destroy human beings. That’s why
what if the inflammatory dreams actually make the dreamers sen- it is crucial to think about institutions always from a specific
sitive and attentive to others, to someone or something else? This temporal perspective: even if they are spatially bound, related to
misty substance of imagination can then be related to the very houses, shelters, domains, abodes, constructions and platforms,
important quality of precarity, to vulnerability. Vulnerability is an they should not be approached as facts, as something that is given
intrinsic part of instituting: it is at the core of the imagination of and complete but rather as the dwelling between as if and not yet.
living together, in the creative invention of forms of togetherness, Athanasiou was actually touching upon the paradoxical temporal
and the imagination of support and care. It is part of the capacity structure of institutions, which also defines our action when being
of taking care and enabling the ways in which in our vulnerability involved in the process of institutionalization. As our institutional
we are actually not alone. In this sense the mist springs from the engagement is only possible as a dwelling between imagination
conditions of the vulnerability, and no change or innovation can and acting ‘as if’, time in this sense ceases to be approached as
be thought without this capacity of being sensitive, attentive, and futurity, but more as a very particular rhythm where multiple, sev-
open to the others. eral temporalities appear and are maintained together. The insti-
tution appears because of the particular temporal constellation
Becoming Institutionalized of forces. An institution is not a fact, is not an achievement, but
I was very much inspired to think in a different way about this a condition enabling the simultaneity of performing the institu-
imaginary core of the institution, when hearing a lecture by Ath- tion and resisting the very process of institutionalization. It is only
ena Athanasiou in Green Park in Athens, in October 2015. She possible then to defend the process of institutionalization, when
gave her lecture in an old abandoned theatre, which was taken also performing it as something that has yet to be constituted.
over by a collective and transformed into the temporary venue of Here the poetic side enters into the process of institutionaliza-

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172 173
tion: this process can only be done when it is at the same time overall economization of culture and human creativity, on ‘econ-
imaginatively and politically working against the very closure of omystification’, as French philosopher Jean-Pierre Dupuy states
the processes we are in. In that way, said Athanasiou, we have to (Dupuy 2014). In this sense their task is not to offer the choice of
act in the process of institutionalization as if this process would different and always new aesthetic products, but actually to chal-
be possible, but we also have to be always aware of what we lose lenge the temporal rhythms of working, producing, and making,
if we would finally win. Here the poetic side can be described as to challenge the processes of continuous production of futurity
a temporal deceleration, holding something back, dwelling in the through projects, to hold time back for precarious, vulnerable,
not-yet. Only such an approach opens a crack in time, a temporal and caring modes of being, through which change could emerge.
amplitude of the new. To act as if it would be possible is also at the This is possible through the collective force of imagination, which
core of engagement in general. Not because this would be some is at the core of every process of institutionalization.
kind of individual superpower, a tricky and tactical position of The artistic institutions themselves are today in a very pe-
the enlightened institutional worker and critical subjectivity—if we culiar situation, as I already argued: on the one hand they are
would understand it like that, we could soon end up lonely and under a threat to protect themselves as much as possible while on
exhausted. This conditionality is rather at the core of engagement, the other they have to endure somehow and sustain their own pro-
which is always already an engagement with others. The temporal gressiveness, develop experimentally, and so on. We are living in
quality of the process of the institutionalization belongs to the times when with one swing coming from the populist and nation-
specific common practice, which is at the same time always in- alistic cultural ‘reformations’ on the march throughout Europe,
complete, unforeseeable, rather a ‘co-existential history of surpris- such institutions could be erased; and there are currently many
ing itself’ (Athanasiou 2016). The institutional practice is related places in Europe where this is going on. This is also showing us
to the opening of ‘space and time which comes into being precise- how problematic the idea of the progressive institution is, on what
ly through producing its own agents’ (Athanasiou 2015) and this kind of a shallow foundation this idea is built. Progression is ac-
is only possible because this practice is already from the start a tually one of the ideological falsehoods of neo-liberalism. It can
common practice, protecting the common precariousness of be- be described here as a hegemonic capture of time, which can find
ing. Nevertheless, the threat of violence is always there, originat- many different embodiments in the forms of production and sub-
ing in the erasure of this common pre-condition of every activity. jectivity today: professional biography, project, debt, progressive
education, management of time, and so on. The progressive insti-
Collective Practices of Imagination tution is controlling the temporal rhythms and is engaged in the
Why is it so important to be reminded of this temporal dimension violent production of futurity. In this way the precarious forms
of the process of institutionalization, to think about the condition- of imagination, dwelling in the presence, holding back time, am-
ality that defines processes of being and working together? How plitude of time, are destroyed and turned into the logistic and
can we relate this observation to the artistic institutions, especial- managerial operations of flexibility, simultaneity, and multiplic-
ly to the ones that are characteristic for the field of performance, ity of time. In this sense the new becomes something else than
choreography and visual arts today, in which so many free-lancing change, because it is always depending on the existing power re-
and flexible, nomadic artists are working today? It is not enough lations and on how these relations are defining the coming of the
to think about institutional change as the opening of new aes- future. That’s also why neoliberal imagination in its last instance
thetic choices, because institutional change actually concerns the can only imagine the apocalyptic failure of the future, which re-es-
common, misty core of the institution: is it possible to organize in tablishes an even more conservative notion of the presence.
a poetic way how to work together? A political task for contempo- Inside this hegemonic control of time and the futurity the
rary institutions is to find out how to challenge self-obvious truths artistic institutions are continuously under pressure to produce
about how art and performance should be produced and man- and give evidence of their ‘social and political’ value in order to
aged. They would need to show how these truths depend on the fight the pressures coming from financial cuts and cultural re-

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forms, thus turning themselves into good and obedient cultur- about the poetic capacity of invention in relationship to the artis-
al agents. However, the infrastructure they are offering can ac- tic institution; how this dwelling in the not-yet and acting as-if can
tually be used and developed further if there is a space for the change the rhythm of artistic work and how we organize ourselves
persistence in the mist, for the fogginess of imagination, and the through work, how we organize ourselves inside the precarious
opening up of new processes. Institutions should today enable a foggy environment of imagination. I don’t want to propose slow-
persistent and demanding fight on the field where values are pro- ing down or give similar advice, even if this is a much-desired
duced and where imagination is not colonized yet. So, they should wish of many cultural operators and artists. Something else is
become something that is in opposition to the transparency and at stake here: the need to develop imaginative temporal forms of
logistical and spinning managerial evidence of success (a crucial working that would have the power to resist the flexibility and
institutional criterion of evaluation nowadays). Such awareness precarity of contemporary work. In this sense it is necessary to
about the contradictory process of support and violence inherent work imaginatively and resist the closure of the institution as a
to the institution is especially important in a time of immense possibility and performing the process of institutionalization in a
distrust in institutions, in a time of populism that is deeply inter- way that has yet to be constituted.
twined with processes of de-institutionalization, resulting in the There should be a radical shift in a temporal dimension of
destruction of the forms of social support, care, and common in- production, fighting the projective temporality, its temporal loop
frastructure. Such populist distrust happens simultaneously with between the present and the future, which structures the future in
the neoliberal processes of de-institutionalizing, even if they often the relation to the existing power dynamics. Imaginative process-
have different goals. Neoliberalism expands globally through ex- es not only challenge the project temporality with a multitude of
traction and destruction of the existing modes of production in proposals and works, but also with how modes of work and think-
the local surroundings, while populism tries to re-establish the ing are enabled, supported, and also sustained. This can only be
archaic forms of togetherness (based on nationhood, manhood, possible if imagination is understood as a dedication to what has
and religion). However, both processes share the same institution- yet to come, which is paradoxically an openness into the present
al violence, which transforms the vulnerability and precarity of time. This is the openness as if the future is always already there,
existing as a condition of being with others to the powerful means present in how it is continuously invented, shared, and challenged
of discipline and control, disabling any possible change of forms by the ways of present living. In this sense the temporality of the
of living, instituting and organizing, any possibility of the ampli- present is characterized by an amplitude of simultaneous acts, not
tude of temporal rhythms of life. by the enumeration and acceleration of projects. Such openness
From this perspective, the artistic institutions should not into the present time includes something restorative and re-estab-
be defended, when endangered from politics and governments, lishing along with something unfinished and incomplete. In this
as monuments to freedom and experiment, but actually invented sense the process of institutionalization is not to take care of the
anew within the utterly changed political and cultural circum- past (and freeze it), but neither about pushing it into the future
stances. Exactly in the moment of danger we need radical propos- (and, with the continuous production of the new, leave behind
als. This radical proposal is a power of the collective poetic and ruins), but much more about a difficult process of giving change
inventive action, a persistent working towards impossibility that to the present—visible between the repetition of the past and im-
opens up new forms of imagination and being together. agination of the future. Maybe this is exactly what several artistic
attempts of institutionalizing, thinking differently, trying differ-
A New Rhythm ent modes of living together are doing today and why there is such
The poetic capacity of invention has also much to do with a par- a need for bringing back fantasy and imagination when thinking
ticular rhythm, and rhythm is, at least in theories of poetics, cru- about the institution: this proposal, to try to bathe and take place
cial for poetics and poetry, because it is related to the subjectivity in this fragile foam, is a poetic proposal. Poetic in the sense that it
of the language. This would be maybe one way of how to think tries to make visible the production itself, how something comes

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into being, to disclose and hold in eternity this not-yet, which is so Reference
crucial when thinking about the temporal frame of the institution. —— Athanasiou, Athena. 2015. ‘Athanasiou,
New attempts in institutionalization should open up this process Athena: Counter-institutions,
Counter-publics, and the Performative
of institutionalization as a poetic process, a process that is not in the Political.’ Keynote at the
only an invention, but a specific production of form, a generation Conference Institutions, Politics,
Performance; Athens, Green Park,
of visibility of production, of bringing something into being. In 24 September. (Based on the notes
this way imagination is related to engagement, care, and persis- from the lecture)
—— Athanasiou, Athena. 2016. ‘Becoming
tence, which are part of precarious vulnerability. The question is Engaged, Surprising Oneself.’
how to practice processes of institutionalization from within this http.//instifdt.bg.ac.rs/wp-content/
uploads/2016/04/14-Athena-
paradoxical knot: here the practice of institutionalization contin- Athanasiou.pdf
uously needs imagination and common dedication to the impos- —— Castoriadis, Cornelious. 1987. The
Imaginary Institution of Society.
sible, to actually make something possible. These are the poetic Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.
processes, which can be placed very close to performative action, —— De Cock, Christian. 2013. ‘From
Creativity to Imagination with
to the engagement with actuality through imaginative, fictional, Cornelious Castoriadis.’
invented acts of togetherness: actuality is not something that is al- www.researchgate.net/...De_Cock/...
Castoriadis/.../From-Creativity-to-
ready lying there, but it is also continuously produced through our Imagination.
engagement with it. At the same time, poetic processes are part of —— Dupuy, Jean-Pierre. 2014. Economy of
the Future: The Crisis of Faith.
performative actions of engagement; they are namely dealing with Michigan: Michigan State University
the invention of forms and particular inclinations in language Press.
—— Kunst, Bojana. 2015. Artist at Work:
and subjectivity, they are disclosing the inventive and imaginative Proximity of Art and Capitalism.
side of being and working together. It is immensely productive for Winchester: Zero Books.
—— Lorey, Isabell. 2015. The State of
thinking about artistic institutions (but also about institutions in Insecurity: Government of the
general) to bring these two processes together—performative ac- Precarious. London and New York.
tion (acting as-if) and poetic capacity of invention (imagining as
if not-yet). In this sense the institution could never be understood
as an achievement, but it is rather a complex rhythmical loop be-
tween acting as-if and imagining of what is not-yet.

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The Museum,
Decoloniality and
the End of the
Contemporary
Rolando Vázquez
We are experiencing times of open wounds, global injustice, and This text starts by addressing the museum from a decoloni-
the depletion of Earth. They are the unequivocal expression of al perspective, so as to indicate the sort of questions that lay ahead
modernity, the Eurocentric and anthropocentric model of civi- in the task of decolonizing the museum. The second and longest
lization. We are facing the question of the (im)possibility of an part of the text moves on to present some of the major proposi-
ethical life. It is a question to which there are no ready-made tions of decolonial thought, as an indication of a framework of
answers. Can we live an ethical life in a historical order in which reference that can sustain this task. Finally, in way of a conclusion
our wellbeing, our sense of achievement, the satisfaction of our we address the question of the end of the contemporary.
pleasures and desires are dependent on the consumption of life,
of the life others and the life of Earth, on the exploitation of The Museum and Decolonial Critique
others and the relentless extraction from and pollution of Earth? The museum, like the university, has been one of the core insti-
How can we live an ethical life when we are made to enjoy the tutions of modernity. The museum has been enacting the anthro-
consumption of life? pocentric colonial difference, configuring the normative self, and
We are writing from the position of the inhabitants of the negating alterity through exclusion and/or exhibition of alterity.
consumer society in the Global North. We are at the receiving It has been instrumental in the affirmation, production, and dis-
end of all manners of intersectional privilege in a gendered-co- semination of western epistemology, in the formation of ways of
lonial order. We know that in the consumer society we are fed knowing and forms of perception that configure normative sub-
and dressed owing to the suffering of others and the depletion jectivities. Its coloniality is enacted in a negation of appropriat-
of Earth. And we are made to enjoy it. Our sense of success, of a ing, exhibiting, and relegating other people’s life-worlds, animals,
good life has been made dependent on processes of exploitation and the Earth as ‘alterity’. The museum draws the alterity against
of others and extraction from Earth. Anthropocentrism and Eu- which the normative self becomes human, modern, universal,
rocentrism appear as two axes that imply, on the one hand, a mon- and absent to the plurality of the world. The self is constituted
ocultural strand of exploitation and dispossession of other worlds in the separation from Earth, animals, and other peoples’ worlds
(worldlessness) and on the other an anthropocentric strand wast- as being outside the here and now of modernity. His aesthetic
ing away Earth (Earthlessness). Our notions of progress, of devel- experience is an expression of the separation from other worlds of
opment, of civilization cannot be seen separate from the dispos- meaning and from embodied realities.
session of others and the depletion of Earth, ecocide. The ethical When we ask what the modern/colonial function of the
question, the question for the possibility of an ethical life with museum has been, we see its movement of affirmation as that
Earth is the backdrop of these reflections. which constitutes a cultural archive (Wekker 2016) and is geared
What is the role of the museum as a public space for ed- towards a normative subject formation. The formation of collec-
ucation and preservation when it is confronted with an aware- tions, narratives, and publics are co-implicated processes of con-
ness of the modern/colonial order, when it is confronted with figuring normative cultural archives, worldviews, and subject-for-
the ethical question? What can the museum do? Has the mu- mations. We need to ask to what extent intersectional forms of
seum been engaged with these questions or has it rather been oppression and privilege have found a breeding ground in the
oblivious to and complicit with global injustice and ecocide? museum.
Our times demand that we pay attention to what is being asked. The modernity of the museum, as movement of affirma-
It is a call that, despite the lack of answers, is pushing us to tion and normativity refers to the way in which it has been a mech-
dare to move and think differently. What we offer here is not a anism for the formation of the normative ideal subject: as citizen
solution but a path to begin to understand the museum in rela- (National History Museum), Human (Natural History Museum),
tion to its modern/colonial historical reality. How is the mod- white (Ethnographic Museum), as the ‘modern’ and contempo-
ern formation of collections, narratives, and publics implicated rary self (Art and Contemporary Art Museum)... . Of course,
in coloniality? these functions are intermingled and not exclusive to each type

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of the Contemporary

182 183
of museum. They are all about entering civilization, humanity, enunciation and claiming the radically new, we need to begin lis-
and becoming modern, about becoming the self at the centre of tening to that which has been silenced by coloniality, by our cul-
the now. tural archive, by our narratives and our privilege. We need to ask
If the museum has been so central in the formation of the how can we listen to that which has been made silent, invisible,
cultural archive, the world view, and the normative subject, how irrelevant by our own narratives? Decolonial critique is cracking
can it engage in the task of ‘humbling modernity’? How can it en- open the presentism/noveltism of modernity to illuminate already
gage in the task of divesting modernity of its normative position- existing alternative genealogies and paths into the to-come. We
ality? We believe that the humbling of modernity is the condition have to learn to become quiet, to quiet the cacophony of our own
of possibility for beginning to listen to other worlds of meaning narratives.
(Vázquez 2012).
How can the museum undo the white western gaze? How Decolonial Critique
can it undo its position of abstraction? How can it reveal its negat- One of the characteristics of modernity is that it is oblivious to co-
ed modern/colonial positionality? How can the museum critically loniality. While upholding its own self-made narrative it has simul-
engage its role in the formation of a monocultural archive and taneously hidden the processes of negation that have enabled it to
normative publics? How can it come to terms with its geo-histor- exist. Decolonial forms of questioning are needed to overcome
ical positionality and reach towards responsibility? How can the the enclosure in the epistemic territory of modernity that is built
museum become aware of how it has been implicated in config- on the denial of coloniality (Vázquez 2011). Our notions of pro-
uring, guarding, and benefiting from the colonial difference? Can gress, of development, of civilization have been sustained on ex-
the museum unlearn its own self-made narrative and engage in the ploitation, dispossession of others, and on the depletion of Earth,
task of humbling modernity? Can the museum engage in a deco- on ecocide. Thinking our historical reality as a modern/colonial
lonial transformation of the cultural archive, of its collections and order is fundamental for understanding our times. In this second
narratives, of its public formations? part of the essay we will present some of the key propositions that
It seems to us that the first step to be taken is to humble its sustain the decolonial critique of the modern/colonial order.
own narratives to recognize the limits of its own episteme so that
it can begin listening. It has to recognize how it is implicated in 1492 Birth of Modernity
the modern/colonial difference. We see the exhibitions ‘The Mak-
ing of Modern Art’ and ‘The Way Beyond Art’ curated at the Van Unlike the most common approach, which sees modernity as
Abbemuseum (2017–2018) under the notion of demodernizing as stemming from the enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the
engaging in this process. French revolution, and the reformation, decolonial thought un-
The second step is for the museum to recognize itself as derstands modernity as starting in 1492. For us the timespan of
being implicated in the modern colonial/order, and take respon- modernity comes from the beginning of the colonial enterprise.
sibility. The notion of being implicated is a tool against ‘arrogant To clarify this proposition, we recall the famous quote from En-
ignorance’ that comes from black and chicana feminist thought rique Dussel:
(Anzaldúa 2007; Alexander 2006; Lugones 2010; Wekker 2016).
When you are in a position of abstraction, when you are in this According to my central thesis, 1492 is the date of the ‘birth’
nowhere where you hold the power to see while not being seen of modernity … [M]odernity as such was ‘born’ when Eu-
(Haraway 1988) you cannot take responsibility. rope was in a position to pose itself against another, when,
The third step that we see for decolonizing the museum in in other words, Europe could constitute itself as a unified
connection with decolonial aesthesis is to engage with the task of ego exploring, conquering, colonizing an alterity that gave
listening across the colonial difference. We are entering a time back its image of itself. This other, in other words, was not
in which we have to stop focusing on holding the monopoly of ‘dis-covered’ as such, but concealed’ (Dussel 1993, p. 66).

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Before 1492, before the colonial enterprise, Europe could not as multiple, contested, never achieved, and so on. But for us,
think of itself as the centre of the entire world. This Eurocentrism all those representations of modernity belong to intra-European
is easy to visualize in the ‘world map’ that inhabits the imagina- perspectives. When you see modernity from the outside of the
tion of most of us, a ‘world map’ in which Europe stands at the dominant west, other questions emerge. Modernity appears then
centre. In it you have a very clear example of the epistemic power as the Western project of civilization and as a driving principle
of colonialism. Why is Europe sitting at the centre of the ‘world for the historical constitution of the modern/colonial order.
map’ in our modern/colonial imagination?
The Euro-centred world map serves us as a metaphor to The Eurocentrism of Modernity
show that without colonialism Europe could neither represent
itself as the centre of geography nor as the ‘now’ of history. Co- The second proposition is about the Eurocentric character of
lonialism enables Europe to claim for itself the central position the project of modernity. Eurocentrism is a form of arrogant
of enunciation. Colonialism enables the universal validity claim ignorance, because it assumes itself as universal and assumes
that sustains ‘Eurocentrism’. Europe begins claiming the central that there is no outside its own logic, so that there is no epistem-
position of enunciation across the world, presenting itself as the ic outside and no genealogical outside its epistemic territory.
reference point in both space and time. When non-Western-centred peoples show that they have other
Apart from revealing the colonial underpinnings of the knowledges, other philosophies, other forms of life, they are
epistemic privilege of Europe, the quote from Dussel also shows often seen as holding romanticist positions. We are told that
that the conditions for Europe’s self-understanding is that of pos- everyone has been touched by modernity and that there is no
iting itself ‘against an other’, of ‘colonizing an alterity that gave such thing as an ‘outside modernity’. For decolonial thought,
back its image of itself’. Europe cannot understand itself without however, there is an ‘outside’ of modernity; this is not to claim
the negation of the other. This has happened through a process that there are worlds in a state of purity that remain untouched
of double negation, constituted by two co-implicated movements. by modernity, but rather that there are genealogies and trajecto-
The first movement is the colonial enactment of negation of the ries of life and thought that do not come and cannot be traced
other by enslaving, exterminating, exploiting, dispossessing, ex- back to the claimed Greco Latin heritage of the Enlightenment
tracting... The second and simultaneous movement of the double and the Renaissance.
negation is that of the denial and erasure of the first. The nega- Especially since the last part of the twentieth century
tion of coloniality is achieved by the dominion of modernity over up until today, critique has been praised for its self-reflexivity,
representation with its narrative of salvation, of civilization, of for being critical of one’s self-understanding. We think that this
progress, of development, and so on, and through the discrimina- movement of thought is completely insufficient to address the
tion of the other by relegating her to the past or to the outside of problems of the modern/colonial world and that it is actually
history, under categories such as ‘barbarism’, ‘underdevelopment’, complicit with enforcing the epistemic self-enclosure of moder-
‘poverty’, and so on. For example, in the narratives of progress nity. The moment this Eurocentric-West begins listening to the
and development, we erase the fact that the plantation system other that it has negated, to the alterity that gives it the image of
was essential for the formation of the Atlantic economy and the itself, is the moment when the West will begin to understand its
emergence of a global capitalism centred in the West. We negate location in the broader historical reality of the modern/colonial
the ‘other’ materially through oppression, exploitation, and ex- order. Locating the West requires the overcoming of the double
traction but we also erase that process from our representation of negation that has enabled its claim to the abstract position of
world-historical reality. universality, of being in the present of history and at the centre
Let us clarify that the proposition of placing the start of of geography. It is through an act of listening to ‘the other’, of
modernity in 1492 is not a naïve interpretation of modernity. understanding itself through the voice of ‘others’, that the West
It is not as if we are not aware of the narratives of modernity can overcome the ignorance of Eurocentrism and recognize itself

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through a more truthful positionality. This we believe is one of the force of appropriation that will be accompanied by the control
the key tasks that needs to be addressed by cultural institutions of representation, that is the control of knowledge, epistemolo-
such as the museum. gies, narratives, and the control of appearance. Modernity will
Let me clarify here that when we speak of ‘Europe’ we do control presence through tangible forms of appropriation, like the
not mean to say that Europe as a geographical place is not diverse. plantation for the extraction of human life and Earth’s life, while
The dominant project of modernity has also suppressed diversity at one and the same time it will represent it as civilization, pro-
inside European geography. For instance, Sylvia Federici (Fed- gress, and development. Appropriation and representation work
erici 2014) has shown how women with knowledge and authority hand in hand. The combination of appropriation and representa-
were persecuted throughout the inquisition in Europe. The pro- tion enables modernity to hold the monopoly over worlding the
ject of modernity is a dominant project also inside Europe that world. Modernity’s world as artifice results from the forceful pro-
will establish a dominant order over other knowledges, languages, jection of its mode of representation, often dressed as salvation
forms of relating to Earth, and so on. We have the big task of utopias, enabled by the appropriation of life and the negation of
listening to the ‘others of Europe’ and engaging the question of other worlds of meaning. Without coloniality there is no moderni-
decolonizing Europe. ty as world’s artifice, there are no simulacra.
When we ask the question of modernity we see how power
No Modernity without Coloniality is operating tangibly, instituting itself as world-historical reality.
This has been the focus of critical social sciences and humanities
The third proposition, coming from Anibal Quijano (Quijano in the West. But when we ask the question of coloniality, we ask
2010), is that there is no modernity without coloniality. The history the question of what has been lost. What is being lost? What is
of progress and civilization cannot be disconnected from the his- being de-futured? What is being stopped from becoming world?
tory of enslavement, plantation, extraction, and so on. Modernity/ While ‘Modernity’ is that which controls the presence and enacts
coloniality is written as a binomial separated by a slash to signify the dominant way of worlding the world, ‘Coloniality’ expresses
that its terms are co-constitutive and that they are enjoined by the the absenting of the other. Whereas modernity controls the world
colonial difference. However, it is very important to recognize that presencing, coloniality is the movement of absencing. It speaks
each term of the binomial designates a distinct movement towards of all sorts of processes of denigration, exploitation, extraction,
the real. The movement of modernity is clearly distinct from the racialization, dispossession, and the double erasure through their
movement of coloniality. ‘Modernity’ is about the control of pres- occlusion. To ask the question of coloniality is very different from
ence, the control of world historical reality: what appears as world asking the question of modernity.
is what modernity is controlling, ranging from its institutions to its Allow us a small parenthesis to clarify the importance of
forms of subjectivity and from its sciences and arts to its everyday thinking about modernity/coloniality in conjunction. Geologists
practices. Modernity’s movement as the control of presence has who have been busy finding markers to establish the onset of
two important coexisting moments: appropriation and representa- the Anthropocene, of human-driven geological transformations,
tion. Modernity has been materially about the appropriation of have made a striking discovery that confirms the inseparability
land, the massive appropriation of what it will name ‘America’, of modernity and coloniality. Geologists have found an impor-
possibly the largest appropriation of land in history, that will be tant reduction in atmospheric CO2 concentration between 1570
followed by massive colonial appropriations in Africa, Asia and and 1620 registered in the Antarctic ice-core, what they call the
Oceania. The appropriation of land has to be understood in con- Orbis Spike (Lewis 2015). This reduction in CO2 is linked to
nection to the appropriation of Earth through extractive practices the mass death of three quarters of the population of the Amer-
and the appropriation of life of humans and non-humans. icas and Africa and corresponds to the unfolding of colonial-
Together with this moment of appropriation there is a mo- ism (Biello 2015). We have now the geological confirmation
ment of representation. Modernity controls materially through that the onset of modernity and the dominion of the Western

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project of civilization corresponds to the genocidal erasure of that of not seeking to become modern. Decolonial delinking and
other worlds. The Euro-centred and anthropo-centred project the rejection of modernity as the horizon of expectations is not to
of civilization is inseparable from coloniality. To be sure, the be confused with a backward or traditional perspective, it is rather
mass death of the early colonial period is not only explained a strong stand for autonomy and dignity, and a radical departure
through the mass appropriation of land, enslavement, and mass of the historical horizon of Eurocentrism and the dominant West.
killings—the biota exchange and the resulting epidemics that fol- Decoloniality, as the overcoming of the modern/colonial
lowed also played a role. The work on the so-called ‘Columbian order, is not just oppositional resistance, it is driven by the strug-
Exchange’ shows that European domination was also based on gle for re-existence (Albán Achinte 2009), for dignity and justice.
pathogens (Carney 2015). That pathogenic non-human agents If we look at social movements across the global South (including
played a role in the destruction of colonized worlds stresses the the South in the North, such as diaspora communities or first
importance of thinking coloniality as inseparable from the on- nations in Europe, North America, and Oceania) in their differ-
set of modernity. Historically, the experience of mass death and ent struggles for land, against feminicide, against ecocide, against
colonial domination are inseparable. Now, thanks to the work violence, the common denominator is that they are demanding
of geologists, we have the geological markers that confirm the and fighting for dignity.
entwinement of colonialism and genocide. We know that the un- Decoloniality is about enabling other worlds to become
folding of the modern/colonial order meant genocide and that world. What modernity has done is to suppress the possibility
the thesis of Dussel, for whom 1492 coincides with the start of of other worlds to become world (worldlessness). Decoloniality
modernity is inseparable from coloniality, as the destruction of means to reclaim the possibility of naming and inhabiting the
other worlds. The mass death of the colonized through domi- world; it is to be able to embody and experience those other worlds.
nation and contagion is inseparable from the foundation of the Decoloniality has to do with the question of the vernacular and of
modern/colonial order, and modernity’s claim to ‘universal’ verbality; not with having or taking; not with the object but with
domination. Coloniality must be part of the on-going conversa- the verb, with being others and being able to make worlds, recov-
tions on the Anthropocene. ering the autonomy of naming and worlding our worlds.

Decoloniality as Delinking Modernity as Separation

The fourth proposition holds that decoloniality is an orientation Once we have distinguished the movement of modernity and co-
and a practice that doesn’t want to be included in modernity. We loniality, we will now address how they become conjugated as mo-
don’t want to be modern, because for us modernity is the Western dernity/coloniality and come to constitute the colonial difference.
project of civilization that is coeval to and inseparable from coloni- More broadly, we will see how modernity attains its affirmation
ality. Decolonial thought does not fight for the recognition of being as the ‘self’ of world-historical reality through major processes of
modern, neither for the recognition of contemporaneity. We don’t production and separation from alterity. The processes of sepa-
want to be modern, we want to overcome modernity, to overcome ration reveal the mediation between the controlling of presence
the modern/colonial order. The movement of decoloniality is what and the absencing of alterity. We suggest ordering the processes
Walter Mignolo calls a movement of delinking (Mignolo 2011). We of separation in three major axes that are mutually implicated: a)
are not fighting for recognition. We are not struggling for denied Eurocentrism, b) anthropocentrism and c) contemporaneity.
histories to be recognized as part of the global history of moder-
nity nor do we want to claim that we are also modern. We do not a) Eurocentrism, as mentioned before, is the axis of separation
want to discredit those struggles for recognition, we think they are from other worlds. It establishes the dominance of the mono-cul-
valid strategies for many local histories, but our strategy, inspired ture of the West and expresses the modern/colonial order as world-
by the radical autonomy of maroon and first nations struggles, is lessness. It affirms whiteness and patriarchy through racialization

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and the imposition of the modern/colonial gender system. Through conditions of separation from others, from Earth and from his
its operation the ‘other’ is racialized, animalized, impoverished, communal precedence.
de-sexualized or hyper-sexualized, the other is made sub-human The axes of separation offer us a different understanding
and the male/white/western self becomes the norm of the human. of modernity, one that is inaccessible from its own epistemic en-
Eurocentrism, the monoculture of the West, rules over the rela- closure. Modernity appears as ‘worldlessness’, as ‘Earthlessness’
tions to others, leading us towards ‘wordlessness’, to the loss of and as ‘oblivion’. The radical impoverishment of experience is the
worlds. It means the imposition of a single world and the loss of consequence of the loss of our relation to other worlds, to Earth
the diversity of worlds. and to precedence.

b) Anthropocentrism is the axis of separation from Earth. It estab- The End of the Contemporary
lishes the superiority of the ‘human’ (as an expression of Eurocen- The decolonial critique of time shows us that the configuration
trism, of ‘reason’, civilization, culture) over Earth life (including of the modern/colonial order corresponds to the establishment
animals, rivers, mountains, forests, etc). It expresses the modern/ of a world-historical reality that is mediated by a particular rela-
colonial order as ‘Earthlessness’. The axis of anthropocentrism, tion to time. The modern/colonial politics of time configure the
with its concurrent manifestation in science, ‘reason’, humanity, mediation between what is to be considered real, what is to be
culture etc. rules over the relation to Earth, and leads us to a con- considered normative, and that which will be produced as alterity
dition of ‘Earthlesness’. or relegated to oblivion. ‘Contemporaneity’ is a normative field
that renders real modern chronology, with its cult of novelty and
c) Contemporaneity is the axis of separation from relational tem- the sovereignty of empty present. Allow us to use a fragment of
porality. It establishes chronology and the principle of novelty the text that summoned the meeting on ‘The End of the Contem-
(immanence, futurity, contemporaneity) over relational temporali- porary’ in Berlin in 2017.
ties, over precedence (Vázquez 2017a; Chavéz and Vázquez 2017).
It expresses the modern/colonial order as amnesic, as oblivion. The contemporary has been a normative position in the
Through the axis of contemporaneity, the ‘now’ attains its defini- arts since the second half of the 20th century. The emer-
tion through temporal discrimination. The ‘now’ as a property of gence of the global contemporary towards 1989 opened a
the self is defined through seeing the other as traditional, as passé, critique of Eurocentrism in the field of contemporary art
as backward, as a belated copy. Contemporaneity, the notions of but left the normativity of the contemporary untouched.
novelty, futurity, nowness, rules over our experience in time and What remained untouched and at the same time became
leads us into the oblivion of empty presence, confining us to the globalized was the normativity of modern time’ (Vazquez
surface of present that is reduced to presence. It establishes the 2017b).
empty present and the concurrent affirmation of the world as ar-
tifice as the confinement of experience. Experience becomes akin The decolonial critique of time shows how the seemingly open-end-
to superficiality and emptiness. ed and inclusive notion of contemporaneity has been functioning
These three axes of separation become embodied in the to reinforce the colonial difference by normalizing the modern/
subject that experiences life as separated from others in his in- postmodern conception of time as the condition for recognition
dividuality, as separated from Earth in his ‘humanity’ and as and legibility. In contrast with the normativity of contemporanei-
being uprooted from his communal precedence. The subject ex- ty we suggest listening to the philosophies from ‘Abya Yala’ (The
periences life in the confinement of his individual identity. The Americas), we propose to address the question of time beyond
self is confined in the artifice and superficiality of representa- the enclosure of modern chronology, by mobilizing the notion of
tion. The ‘modern subject’, the model of the ‘human’, lives a ‘precedence’. The notion of precedence is a way to overcome the
confined life of individuality, consumption and artifice, lives in binary between immanence and transcendence (Vázquez 2017a).

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It is a way to relate to deep temporalities, in which what precedes Reference the Decolonial Option: A Manifesto.’
Transmodernity, pp. 44–66.
us is not immanent, not fully contained in the now of the present, —— Albán Achinte, Adolfo. 2009. —— Quijano, Aníbal. 2010. ‘Coloniality
but it is both ahead of us and before us. This is the notion of time ‘Artistas Indígenas y and Modernity/Rationality.’ In
Afrocolombianos: Entre las Memorias Globalization and the Decolonial
that exists in many philosophies of Abya Yala (The Americas), y las Cosmovisiones: Estéticas de la Option, ed. Walter D. Mignolo and
and that cannot be articulated through the dominant philosophi- Re-Existencia.’ In Arte y Estética en la Arturo Escobar, pp. 22–32. New York:
Encrucijada Descolonial, compiled by Routledge.
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the West is confined to the dichotomy immanence/transcendence. Aires: Ediciones del Signo. as Erasure: Thoughts on Modernity’s
—— Alexander, M. Jacqui. 2006. Epistemic Violence.’ Journal of
Decolonial aesthesis (Vázquez and Mignolo 2013) is not Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Historical Sociology 24, no. 1,
about seeking novelty nor contemporaneity; decolonial aesthesis Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and pp. 27–44.
the Sacred. Durham: Duke University —. 2012. ‘Towards a Decolonial
is about disobeying the chronology of modernity (Vazquez 2016). Press. Critique of Modernity: Buen Vivir,
It’s coming under the ‘sign of the return’; a radical return that is —— Anzaldúa, Gloria. 2007. Borderlands/ Relationality and the Task of
La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Listening.’ In Capital, Poverty,
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ent. edition). Betancourt, pp. 241–252. Aachen:
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Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands. This text will also be published in other Exchange.’ UCLA Previously Published —. 2017a. ‘Precedence, Earth and the
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Part 3
No/New Future
Disentanglement
of the Present
An Interview with
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi by
Thijs Lijster
Our postfuturist mood is based on the consciousness that with the following unsettling advice to the reader: ‘Do not take
the future is not going to be bright, or at least we doubt that part in the game, do not expect any solution from politics, do
the future means progress. not be attached to things, do not hope’ (Berardi 2015, p. 137).
Franco Berardi, After the Future (2011) Having apparently reached the low-point of hope in He-
roes, his most recent book Futurability: The Age of Impotence and
Is it still possible to invent or reinvent the future? Does human- the Horizon of Possibility seems more militant again. Here, he de-
kind even have a future? These are some of the questions raised scribes the ‘general intellect’ as ‘the field of the next struggle and
by the recent works of the renowned Italian philosopher Franco of the next creation’ (Berardi 2017, p. 202), a struggle and crea-
‘Bifo’ Berardi. Berardi is best known as being one of the intel- tion, moreover, in which the combined forces of the artist and the
lectuals, along with Paolo Virno and Antonio Negri, emerging engineer are of crucial importance.
from the Italian ‘workerist’ movement Autonomia Operaia in the For the present volume, I went to visit Berardi in Bologna
1970s, and one of the founders of the pirate radio station Radio to hear his thoughts about whether there is still a future for inno-
Alice in Bologna. Like Virno and Negri, Berardi takes his cue vation and creativity, and indeed for the future itself. It resulted in
from the ‘Fragment on Machines’ in the Grundrisse (1857), where a conversation, spread over two days, which, like his books, me-
Marx explains how the accumulation of knowledge in technolo- andered between militant enthusiasm and melancholic despair.
gy leads to a further exploitation and proletarization of workers.
Capitalist production robs workers not only of the surplus value I Creativity and Capitalism
created by their physical labour, but also of their cognitive and Thijs Lijster: You were part of the Italian workerist move-
communicative skills, which are absorbed by what Marx calls ment Autonomia Operaia, a movement that in many ways
the ‘general intellect’: ‘[T]he conditions of the process of social anticipated the developments of capitalist production from
life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and Fordism to post-Fordism, and the way in which language,
been transformed in accordance with it’ (Marx 1857). These lines creativity, affect and emotion play an increasingly impor-
turned out to be highly predictive of what capitalism would be- tant part in it. In your book Heroes you describe how work-
come in the decades after the Second World War, in what is alter- ers have been lured into the ‘trap’ of creativity. Could you
nately referred to as cognitive, immaterial, or creative capitalism. elaborate on that and explain why you consider creativity
While Antonio Negri, together with Michael Hardt, in their a ‘trap’?
famous Empire/Multitude/Commonwealth trilogy envisioned this
development as an opportunity for cognitive and creative workers Franco Berardi: The movement Autonomia was not really
to cease the means of production, echoing Marx and Engels’ state- a party or organization, but rather a sort of archipelago,
ment that ‘capital creates its own gravediggers’ (Hardt and Negri consisting of different movements. The group that I was
2009, p. 311), Berardi’s view is somewhat less optimistic. In After part of in Bologna, that published the magazine A/traver-
the Future (2011) he refers to a deeply felt and generally shared so and founded the radio station Radio Alice, had a spe-
disillusionment with the future within our culture, starting with cial place within Autonomia. We particularly opposed
the punk slogan ‘No Future!’ in 1977, and spreading ever since. the Leninist workerism of, amongst others, Toni Negri.
This disillusionment is further elaborated in his next book Heroes: We called ourselves Autonomia Creativa, because we
Mass Murder and Suicide (2015), a ‘horrible’ book as Berardi him- were stressing the following two points. First, creativity
self labels it, in which he discusses terrorist attacks such as the is more and more important in the process of production:
one by Anders Breivik, increasing suicide rates, and high school communication, information, style, fashion, and so on.
shootings as symptoms of what he calls necro-capitalism, a so- Second, the communist strategy up until then was based
cio-political system that causes ever more stress, suspicion, isola- on the idea of communicating the proletarian truth. We
tion, anxiety, and eventually death and destruction. He concludes rejected this idea. Rather, the creative movement, and

The Future of the New Disentanglement of the Present

200 201
Radio Alice in particular, was about deconstructing the the state could never be a worker state, that a communist
strict division between broadcaster and receiver. We de- state is an oxymoron, since the state organically emerged
veloped a whole theory about the use of telephones inside from the history of capitalist exploitation. Therefore, if you
the radio station, a kind of forerunner of the Internet want to liberate yourself from capitalism, you have to liber-
revolution. In any case, our emphasis was on shared cre- ate yourself from state control. Autonomia was autonomy
ativity. from capital, from the state, from the unions. Radio Alice
Then, after 1977 and in the beginning of the 1980s, broke the state monopoly on radio broadcasting, since up
a lot of my friends got jobs at advertisement companies, until that moment you had only RAI1 and RAI2. When
some even at Berlusconi’s company Mediaset. The link we decided to start a new radio station, the communists
between Autonomia Creativa and the new advertisement warned us: you may be saying nice things, but one day
and media landscape was very strong. In fact, I myself co- someone else may come along, and capitalize the media
founded a magazine titled Ario, financed by a Milan adver- landscape.
tisement group. They were my friends from the movement, They were right, of course! When Berlusconi be-
and they told me that we could innovate the language of came the king of Italy, I said to myself: we have paved the
advertisement, transform it in a progressive sense, and so way for this horrible individual! Still, I do not repent, and
on. For me, these were beautiful years, even though I did I would do it again if I had to. The state monopoly was
things that had nothing to do with the activist period be- untenable. But now you see the ambiguity, the danger even,
fore. I was creative! in words such as ‘creativity’ and ‘autonomy’, and even ‘lib-
Then, little by little, I came to understand that, eralization’. For neoliberalism, liberalization means pri-
first, the word ‘creativity’ had become totally ambiguous, vatization. Again, Radio Alice is proof of this. We said:
due to its co-optation by capitalism—think only of Flori- liberalization of the media landscape. Then, two years
da’s Rise of the Creative Class, which was of course only later, Berlusconi comes along and turns liberalization into
written years later—and, secondly, that the new form of so- privatization, the creation of a new kind of monopoly or
cial exploitation through precarity was completely based oligopoly.
on the appropriation of the surplus of worker’s creativity.
Today, of course, this is totally clear. There is a new rela- TL: So, these concepts have been co-opted. Would the an-
tion between capital and work, based on the stimulation of swer be to reject these concepts altogether, or rather to find
competition among individuals, especially in the field of ways to reclaim them? Can we still use concepts such as
cognitive work, where people have to be singular, creative, creativity or innovation in an alternative, critical way?
and different. Think different! This difference, this creativ-
ity, is more and more captured by the capitalist machine, FB: I don’t think we should reject these words altogether.
which is transforming innovation into formal innovation, The point is that they have not only been co-opted, but
thus reinforcing the substantial persistence of valorization, have even launched the dynamics of capitalist restructura-
exploitation, and accumulation in the economic sphere. tion. This is not unique, though. The entire history of class
So, the Italian autonomists were rebels, but this re- struggle of the past two hundred years was a constant fight
bellion has been part of the neoliberal redefinition of the between workers’ innovation and capitalist appropriation.
capitalist dynamics. What is the goal of Autonomia, what After the Russian Revolution, when the workers in Ger-
is the specificity of its political philosophy? That the enemy many and the US started thinking about changing society,
is not only capital, but also the state. In our view, the main capitalism was obliged to transform itself in the direction
mistake of the Leninists had been that they wanted to turn of massification, the assembly line, and distraction. Capi-
the capitalist state into a socialist state. We argued that talist innovation is never the product of the capitalist mind,

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but rather an effect of the dynamic or conflict between into which the whole of capitalist production is translated.
work and capital. Contemporary technological innovation Both from the point of view of work (cognitive, immaterial
in the digital age, too, is not the product of capitalist will. labour), and from the point of view of capital (financiali-
It is part of the conflict between capital and in this case zation of value), the process of production has become a
cognitive workers. semiotic process.
So yes, our ideals and concepts have been co-opted; At the same time, I speak, mainly in Heroes, of
we have played into the hands of capitalist exploitation. It’s necrocapitalism. This is because financialization is a ne-
unavoidable: if you produce something useful, capitalism crotic process. A peculiar thing is happening: we produce
will recuperate1 it. But we should not be frightened by re- more and more, but the salaries are going down, while the
cuperation. We should trans-innovate. We, the workers, are 1% becomes richer and richer. Financial capital is based
the trigger, the origin of innovation. The point is: never iden- not only on the exploitation of semiotic nervous energies,
tify yourself with yourself. After 1977 I came to understand but also on the systematic destruction of social resourc-
that one should never identify with power, one should never es. Destroying a public school, destroying a hospital, or
think: we won at last. We will never win. Deleuze says the even the entire health care system as happens here in Italy,
same in an interview: revolutions always fail. But the inter- means more financial capital.
esting thing is not the revolution, but the revolutionary: the
group, the movement. You don’t have to win; you have to TL: How?
go beyond yourself. That is the true meaning of autonomy.
FB: Think of the European Troika, the IMF, and so forth,
TL: The characterizations of contemporary capitalism are with their austerity measures. Austerity is the new form of
manifold: cognitive capitalism, cultural capitalism, crea- financial capitalism. Governments have to pay the debts
tive capitalism, post-industrialism, post-Fordism, and so caused by the financial system. How do they pay it? By
on. Two recurring terms in your work are semiocapitalism dismantling public services, lowering public expenses, and
and necrocapitalism. Could you explain what these terms then repaying the money to some metaphysical entity. But
entail? And how do the prefixes ‘semio’ (sign) and ‘necro’ the effect is not a decrease of debt, on the contrary. After
(death) relate to each other in your view? ten years of austerity, the Italian debt has increased enor-
mously. For a simple reason: if we lower the wages of teach-
FB: I am not looking for the perfect definition of capital- ers, doctors, and other public servants, or if they become
ism, for capitalism is many things at once. I’m not so fond unemployed, they will pay fewer taxes, and the result is that
of the term cognitive capitalism, because I would argue that the debt rises. Christian Marazzi [in The Violence of Finan-
the cognitive dimension is the contribution of the worker; cial Capitalism, TL] says that financial capitalism does no
capital itself is not cognitive. What I want to say with the longer work through the extraction of surplus value from
term ‘semiocapitalism’ is that the specificity of contempo- labour, but through debt. The worker produces something,
rary capitalism exists in the fact that the entire process of but then has to destroy this something in order to pay a
production, the process of valorization itself, happens at a debt. Capitalism has become a purely mathematical system,
semiotic level, the level of the sign. Physical things are still which is exploiting and destroying physical, living reality
being produced, of course, but what distinguishes contem- and society. This is a necrotic process: the entire life is put
porary capital from earlier periods is indeed this ability to into the service of and crystallizes into financial capital.
valorize itself in a semiotic way, in the form of finance. The
dimension of finance dominates the entire space of social TL: In After the Future you discuss how the historical artis-
distribution and production, it is the code of signs (semia) tic avant-gardes wanted to destroy the relationship between

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sign and referent. Semiocapitalism, you argue, has realized So, we have to reactivate a hundred million bodies, not
this dream (for instance when monetary production was individually of course, because they are actually one single
detached from the gold standard), albeit in a perverse way. brain, and therefore also one body. This is my metaphoric
Could you elaborate on this? And does this also mean that way of thinking about the future of art.
today artists have a different responsibility, maybe even the
reverse one of reconnecting sign and referent? TL: If you are talking about the reactivation of the body of
the general intellect, do you mean bringing people physi-
FB: In the twentieth century, which was the century of the cally together? Would that be the challenge of art, to break
avant-garde, you indeed see this process of abstraction. through the contemporary isolation and loneliness you dis-
What does abstraction mean? If you look at the Latin et- cuss in your book Heroes?
ymology it literally means ‘move away from’, but also ‘get-
ting free from’. So, the goal of the avant-gardes was towards FB: Yes, bringing people together, but not just for one night.
indeterminism of the sign, the refusal most of all of the Create a daily life that enables a continuous socialization.
determination of representation. And in that regard, it is My background is in psychoanalysis, and although I’m not
parallel to Nixon’s decision, in 1971, of no longer letting an analyst myself I’ve spent years of my life with them. The
the dollar be determined by the international system of problem is that I have been raised in an age in which the
fixed exchange, which basically marked the birth of finan- main danger seemed boredom, while right now we live in
cial capitalism, and its independence from actual econom- the age of anxiety. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was all about
ic production. escaping repression and becoming free. Now the problem
How should art respond? There are indeed some is the opposite: we have all the freedom we want, but it’s
theorists, like the Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris, the freedom of being alone and unhappy. The Freudian
who blame abstract art for having opened the door to Ber- framework does not work anymore: the problem is not that
lusconi and financial capitalism, and who wrote a manifes- we are held back, repressing our urges, but rather that we
to for a new realism. But I don’t think that artists are ever are pushed forward, pushed to express ourselves, to be as
the cause of these kinds of developments, merely the symp- expressive as possible. Now I won’t say, like [the Italian
tom, or a premonition. Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism psychoanalyst, TL] Massimo Recalcati, that we have to re-
were an extraordinary anticipation of all that happened discover the Father. This is a discourse that seems to me
fifty years later. reactionary and empty: putting artificial limits to my ac-
Still, if I come to the present situation, I do think tions means nothing, neither from a therapeutic nor from a
the history of the avant-garde is over. Basically, the move- political point of view. Nevertheless, the paradox of empty
ments in the 1960s and 1970s were conscious and explicit freedom in accelerating times is an actual problem for so-
attempts to realize the avant-garde’s dreams on a massive cial activation.
scale. Right now, deconstructing the relation between sign
and referent is no longer a provocative gesture; this is done, II (No) Future
this is advertisement. The new direction, the real possibili- TL: In After the Future you write: ‘Notwithstanding the hor-
ty, is rather going in the opposite direction. I don’t believe rors of the century, the utopian imagination never stopped
that artists have a task, but if they would have a task it giving new breath to the hope of a progressive future, un-
would be the reactivation of the body. What body am I til the high point of 1968, when the modern promise was
talking about? The body of the general intellect: hundred supposedly on the brink of fulfilment’ (Berardi 2011, 17).
million cognitive workers in the world, the people who are You go on to argue that 1977 was a kind of tipping point,
actually reproducing the global machine on a daily basis. a moment when the belief in and hopes for the future gave

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way to a dystopian imagination. Could you explain how Not anymore after 1977, not only because of political expe-
and why this happened? riences that made me realize that the working class is not
a unified subject but much more contradictory and compli-
FB: Obviously, here the concept of the future has to be cated, but also because the capitalist machine was going
understood in cultural terms. What is redefined is not the so fast, in technical terms, that we as workers were unable
mere succession in time, but our cultural expectation. If I to keep up. Obviously, the Sex Pistols and Radio Alice are
look at my personal experience, I can say that until March only minor phenomena. But if you look at 1977 in general:
1977 I was a futurist, in the sense that I had trust in the Louise Brown2, the Apple trademark, etcetera, these are all
future, and in September 1977, I wasn’t anymore. Until symptoms of technical progress that starts to diverge from
March, our movement was growing, but then the police in social consciousness.
Bologna killed a student, then some more students were
killed in Rome, and the atmosphere changed into one of TL: This is a quite specifically European, Western phenom-
repression, aggression, and fear. I organized a conference, enon, right? If you look at Brazil, India or China, wouldn’t
together with Félix Guattari and others, titled ‘Against Re- you say that there is still this belief of a glorious future that
pression’. This was a total mistake; we should have called it will improve people’s lives and so forth? Isn’t there still a
something like ‘Imagining the Future’. But we didn’t know lot of hopeful projection on the future outside the Western
the next step. world?
But 1977 is an important moment in many regards:
it was the year the first person was conceived through IVF, FB: If you mean that the cultural perception or expectation
it was the year the Apple trademark was deposited, the year of the future is in good shape, in Brazil, India or China,
of Charta 77 in Prague, and the year Lyotard wrote The then you are probably right. But if you look at the lives
Postmodern Condition. But it was also the year the Sex Pis- of individual people, do you think that for young workers
tols yelled ‘No Future!’ and the year that Yuri Andropov, Chinese modernization has been a success, an enrichment
head of the KGB, wrote a letter to Brezhnev saying that the of their lives? Sure, they have more money, they have a car,
USSR was going to collapse if it wouldn’t close the gap in but they are also living in hell. The Chinese film maker
information technology with the US. So, socialism was fail- Jia Zhangke, director of Still Life and Touch of Sin and in
ing, while capitalism didn’t seem so promising anymore. my opinion one of the greatest filmmakers of today, shows
Moreover, you see that until the 1970s, the development us the perception and self-perception of young people in
of technical knowledge and the development of social con- China, who have become much richer than their parents,
sciousness had moved in parallel. But after the 1970s, they but in another way much poorer. Just think of the suicides
diverge: the sphere of technology and information keeps in the Foxconn factories.
accelerating and expanding, but our ability to process this I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago, for the pres-
technology and information, and the time wherein to do entation of a work by my friend Max de Esteban. He made
that, decreases. The effect in the long run is a process of this installation, Twenty Red Lights, in which you hear
barbarization. some influential stock brokers and financial people from
How to explain that at the same moment, young New York and the London City talking on the phone.
Londoners, Bolognese intellectuals, and many others be- What they are saying is that neoliberal globalization has
gan to be frightened by the future? I think that in that pe- been the most social and egalitarian project in the history
riod we felt and perceived the exhaustion of the futurist of humankind. Until fifty years ago, the world was divided
promise. In the 1960s this promise was still strong. I’ve in billions of very poor people and half a billion very rich
never been pro-Soviet, but I believed in the working class. people. Now this has changed, hunger and total poverty

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have been reduced, thanks to us. But the pictures that isolation, loneliness, and depression. Depression is linked
are also part of the installation show misery, devastation, to acceleration in the following way. Acceleration leads
war, suicides, and so on. Now, what the brokers are saying to panic, and panic opens the door to impotence and de-
is not totally untrue. But in the long run, do you think pression. Panic is the hyper-excitement of the mind, of the
that the Chinese or Indians will wait 200 years, like the organism, that is facing an acceleration of info-neural stim-
Germans and Americans, to understand that capitalism ulation. When the organism realizes that there is no way to
is bad? No, they understand it already! Not only because keep up, it breaks the connection with reality: depression.
of the pollution in Shanghai and Beijing, but also because Acceleration, panic, depression: this is the subjective cycle
their lifestyle has changed in such a way that for young of our times. And I don’t believe in a political solution.
men and women it is impossible to imagine a future.
TL: If a political programme, namely neoliberalism, has
TL: What is your take on the accelerationists who argue created this social situation in which people are panicked
that an effective political strategy would be to further speed and depressed, why couldn’t a different political pro-
up capitalism, so as to let it crash against its own borders? gramme change it, and lead to a different social situation?
You quote from Srnicek and Williams’ book Inventing the
Future (2015) in your book Futurability. Do you think it is FB: First of all, I am not sure whether there has been
possible to invent or reinvent the future? such a political decision. Neoliberalism does not exist as
an independent ideology; it is the ideological recording
FB: Accelerationism is basically a deployment of Marx’ of a techno-social dynamic. At a certain point capital-
central intuition, in the Grundrisse, that capitalism is ac- ism was obliged to accelerate the rhythm of the machine,
celerating the dynamics of productivity thanks to knowl- and to expel millions of workers. In the 1970s, the Fiat
edge and technology. This is not all bad, as it forms the factories in Italy were confronted with a great refusal of
condition for the liberation from exploitation, the liber- work. At that moment, the capitalists decided to expel
ation from work itself even. So, from this point of view I workers, to start a flexible hiring system and further stim-
consider myself an accelerationist. As long as we under- ulate automation and robotization. But this is a technical
stand acceleration as a historical trend, I agree, but the decision, not a political one. Forty years ago, Fiat had
moment you try to transform this thought into a political 120,000 workers in Italy, now 6,000. The acceleration of
strategy, it becomes very problematic, because this polit- productivity, the total global competition among workers
ical strategy has to be applied to the real, physical bodies pushing down salaries, this is the real machinery of ne-
of people. And these bodies are unable to deal with this oliberalism. There may be a thousand political decisions
kind of acceleration. within neoliberalism, but essentially neoliberalism itself
As I write in Futurability, I very much appreciate the is not a political decision.
political intention of Srnicek and Williams, but if they say
that we have to reinvent the left, I answer: to reinvent the TL: But don’t you then arrive at the same conclusion as
left is not a political decision. It requires a social and above Thatcher, that There Is No Alternative?
all a psychological transformation. The problem of acceler-
ationism is its total blindness for the most important thing: FB: Indeed, I think that there is no alternative. From a
human suffering. They have no eye for the psychological, philosophical point of view, this statement is very challeng-
subjective reality of the cognitive worker. Even Jeremy Cor- ing. If we do not change the anthropological disposition
byn, whom I love, could not solve this, for there is no polit- towards time, labour, and consumption, there is no alterna-
ical solution. The real obstacle for social emancipation is tive. Given these premises, it’s unavoidable. The only way

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out, if there is a way out, concerns what Foucault calls the of repression: repression of the present for the sake of the
episteme: the basic disposition of the mind towards reality. future. If the future disappears, then investment becomes
This is our challenge, and this is why I think that it’s not so useless, and at that moment we are finally obliged, or al-
much a political problem. lowed, to think in terms of the present.

TL: At the end of After the Future you include the beautiful TL: But couldn’t one imagine a future not of expansion but
‘Manifesto for Post-Futurism’, in which one the final sen- of de-growth, of scaling down?
tences is: ‘We sing to the infinity of the present and aban-
don the illusion of a future’ (Berardi 2011, p. 166). Here the FB: I believe that we have worked enough in the past 500
absence of a future suddenly acquires a far more optimistic years, and what has been accumulated is not just economic
ring than it has in the rest of the book. Do you see the loss value, but technological knowledge. This knowledge is here,
of future as a blessing or as a curse? not in the future. That is why it is inside the present, in the
already existing technological knowledge, that we can find
FB: The future is a modern category, or at least it meant a possibility. We don’t need more investments in the future;
something entirely different in the Middle Ages, or in we need to abandon the propensity towards the future, in or-
Greek Antiquity. In modernity, the future means expan- der to disentangle the possibilities inscribed in the present.
sion. Actually, the imagination of the future is a very What does that mean? It means to work less, to lib-
American idea. Together with the new world Columbus erate time. Again, the contemporary problems of pollution,
discovered the future, ushering in the Spanish ‘golden age’. isolation, and depression cannot be solved by an act of po-
The future became a spatial idea of expansion and growth. litical will, but only by the liberation of social time.
So, if I say that the future is over, I mean that the age of
economic, geographic, and cultural expansion is over. We III Withdrawal
have reached the limits of our world. California was of TL: Is this what you mean with ‘radical passivity’? In After
course at some point the geographical limit, and precisely the Future you write: ‘Radicalism could abandon the mode
the place where expansion and colonization started in a of activism and adopt the mode of passivity. A radical
new direction: the colonization of time and imagination in passivity would definitely threaten the ethos of relentless
Hollywood and Silicon Valley. productivity that neoliberal politics has imposed’ (Berardi
So, at this moment, when the future dissolves, the 2011, p. 138). Still, I would say that the kinds of things
prevailing reaction is panic, impotence, and depression. you propose to reach this passive state—universal basic in-
After having written about those reactions, I tried to re- come, drastic reduction of labour time, and so forth—re-
verse the paradigm, by going back to the Futurist Man- quire a political struggle.
ifesto—which is itself a wonderful exemplification of the
future as expansion and acceleration—and rewrite it into Of course, we need a lot of action in order to make pas-
a Post-Futurist Manifesto, in which the future is no longer sivity possible. But what kind of activism do we need? A
presented as the condition of hope, but as the cultural and cultural and epistemological activism, a revolution of the
psychological root of malady. episteme, of our way of facing reality. That does not mean
The problem is that we, moderns, have worshipped more action, but less. We need to disentangle what is al-
the future as the only condition for happiness, and in so do- ready there, in the present.
ing we have invested—in both an economic and psycholog- I do not see the possibility of a political revolution in
ical sense—the present into the future. This is the central the near future. It is out of the picture. Not only because of
dynamic of capitalism, but also of the Freudian concept the disproportion of forces between workers and capital but

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also because there is no way to form a party or movement of for performance art, dance schools, and the like. At first,
workers, due to their precarious conditions. This was what I didn’t understand why, but it turned out that they knew
I expressed in the Post-Futurist Manifesto. It was one of my about my ideas of the reactivation of the body of the gener-
most successful works. So many young people came to me al intellect, and they were obviously interested in the body.
saying how important it had been for them. This actually It’s a good starting point. I like artists a lot; they are the
makes me feel melancholical, because it’s a symptom of po- most proletarian of all. But this also means they are weak,
litical defeat, of the idea that there is no way out. and lonely. They can say: reactivation, but then what? You
I expect instead a withdrawal. So the way out may also need the engineer. Engineers are also alone; they are
be: a withdrawal from totality, from the expectation of Auf- two sides of the same coin. That is why it is my dream to
hebung, from economic investment, and, simultaneously, create a school for artists and engineers.
the proliferation of units of self-organization. I don’t claim Artists, as well as scientists, have the ability to extract
this as a big discovery: during the last forty years, the most from the erotic relations between human beings a new
interesting experiences were those of withdrawal: centri so- meaning, a meaning that is not already implied in the
ciale in Italy, artist communities in South America and syntactical succession of signs. Then comes the engineer,
Northern Europe, and so forth. Even the rise of the Inter- someone who can transform conjunctive signs into con-
net, the cyberutopia of the 1980s and 1990s, was basically nective signs, transforming inventions into machines. But
the promise of withdrawal, into a new dimension that will then comes the economist, who is subjectively submitting
provide freedom, equality, democracy, and so on. A total the connective machine, which incorporates the conjunc-
mistake, of course, because the Internet went into a differ- tive innovation, to capital, something that is only useful in
ent direction, but the intuition that the Internet created a the sphere of economic valorization.
space for withdrawal was not wrong. These are metaphors, obviously. I have always tried
The question is, of course: withdrawal, and then to turn scientific concepts into metaphors. But ten years
what? In Futurability I suggest that cultural and psycho- ago, at the time of Occupy, my theoretical suggestions fi-
logical withdrawal might be the condition for the creation nally got a social audience. Now, ten years later, I see that
of an affective and technical platform for the disentangle- my metaphors are nice, but that politically speaking they
ment of possibilities. What does this mean? That a hundred are not working, because they do not take into account the
million cognitive workers in the world have the potency of psychopathological side of it. I’ve met thousands of artists
transforming the direction of technology, from profit to so- and engineers, and all liked my story, but in real life people
cial good. Think of Wikileaks. Wikileaks is interesting not are alone. Loneliness is the real obstacle nowadays.
because of the content of the information that is shared;
we don’t need Wikileaks to tell us that the US Army killed TL: But in a way this is an organized loneliness, right? In
civilians, we already know that. It is interesting because it the sense that this isolation of workers from each other, the
connects cognitive workers, people like Chelsea Manning sense of competition, is also something deliberately organ-
and Julian Assange. It is interesting from the point of view ized in the form of precarious work. How to break that?
of the affective social dispositif of solidarity and withdrawal, Resist that?
a common platform to share technology and imagination.
FB: This is the question. I can only repeat it, but not an-
TL: Do you see a role for artists there? swer it.

FB: Certainly. In recent years, I was invited many times TL: Coming back to the theme of this volume: what does
by artists and cultural organizations. Especially in places this imply for the concept of the new? Does it have a

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future, in the artistic sense or maybe also in a different As a writer, I have mixed feelings: on the one hand
sense, for the engineer? I follow the pleasure of the poetic drift, I follow where the
words, the concepts, are taking me. But the militant in me
FB: The ‘new’ is one of the cursed words of the vocabulary. is looking at this with contempt: as you are unable to solve
I try to avoid it, but it’s almost impossible. This conscious- the real problem, you escape in the realm of poetry. As
ness itself is not new of course; take for instance Harold a militant, I am guilty, but the solutions to our problems
Rosenberg’s book The Tradition of the New (1959). The today have to be searched in a sphere that has nothing to
new is a tradition, intertwined with modernity, with the do with militancy.
paradigm of expansion and growth. Modernity is the dic-
tatorship of the new, of fashion, of the modus. Within this TL: This is something you see in many periods in history:
paradigm, innovation actually means: more of the same. in times of political impotence, people turn towards the
So, we need to be liberated from the order of the new, but arts. Is art a form of Ersatz politics?
in order to do that we need a new paradigm. We should be
able to find a different expression, in order to become free FB: Yes, it is Ersatz, but at the same time it is a place of
from the obsession with the new. experimentation, a survey in a territory that might open up
As I said, we need to disentangle the present. When possibilities that we are not seeing at the moment.
I see, for instance, that box over there or this glass, my mind
is deciphering the flow of sense data, interpreting it into a
Gestalt. In The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley describes
this very clearly, when he speaks about his experience with
taking mescaline. Looking at the wall, he didn’t see the
wall, because his mind was unable to grasp the Gestalt. Hal-
lucination is the disentanglement of perception from the
existing Gestalt, and the possibility of discovering many dif-
ferent things that are actually inscribed in the present, but
that we don’t see because we see a box or a glass.
So, what we need is a Gestalt-switch. In his last book,
written just before his death, Félix Guattari speaks of Cha-
osmosis, or chaosmic spasm. In my view, this was the begin-
ning of a new philosophical path that he was unfortunately
unable to develop any further. Spasm is the painful effect
of an acceleration of the mind in relation to its environ-
ment. Acceleration provokes chaos, and the chaos has a
spasmodic effect on the human mind. But in the spasm we
search desperately for a new rhythm, a new relationship
between our own breathing and that of the cosmos. The
concept of ‘chaosmosis’ is about the present chaos and the
pain it produces, but also about the possible osmosis, in the
sense of exchange and respiration, that gets us out of the
chaos. I’m writing about this in my next book, titled Chaos
and Poetry. Respiration, Inspiration, Cospiration.

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Notes Reference
1  ecuperation, in the sociological sense,
R —— Berardi, Franco. 2011. After the Future,
is the process by which politically radical edited by Gary Genosko and Nicholas
ideas and images are twisted, co-opted, Thoburn. Edinburgh, Oakland, and
absorbed, defused, incorporated, annexed Baltimore: AK Press.
and commodified within media culture —. 2015. Heroes: Mass Murder and
and bourgeois society, and thus become Suicide. London and New York: Verso.
interpreted through a neutralized, innocuous —. 2017. Futurability: The Age of
or more socially conventional perspective. Impotence and the Horizon of
Source: Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia. Possibility. London and New York:
org/wiki/Recuperation_(politics) Verso.
2  ouise Joy Brown (born 25 July 1978) is an
L —— Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri.
English woman known for being the first 2009. Commonwealth. Cambridge,
human to have been born after conception MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard
by in vitro fertilisation, or IVF, in 1977. University Press.
Source: Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia. —— Marx, Karl. 1858. Grundrisse,
org/wiki/Louise_Brown. retrieved from www.marxists.org/
archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/
ch14.htm, accessed on 13 March
2018.

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218
The Trash of
History
Thijs Lijster
Because time is a corporate asset now. It belongs to the through something they are accustomed to. For instance, the first
free market system. The present is harder to find. It is be- cars were shaped like carriages (without horses), while the first
ing sucked out of the world to make way for the future of cast iron constructions were made to look like marble pillars or
uncontrolled markets and huge investment potential. The trees. The NEW Forest seems to turn this principle around: yes, we
future becomes insistent. want to slow down, we want quiet and slow art, but we will only
Don Delillo, Cosmopolis (2003) accept it if it is packaged in the familiar and attractive forms of ad-
vertising. This is how Baas acknowledges the abiding magnetism
The new is the longing for the new, not the new itself: That of the new for art, and for us as art lovers, perhaps even for our
is what everything new suffers from. culture in general: we are so fond of it that we are even willing to
Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (1970) wait two hundred years.
Then again, we also seem to become increasingly afraid
Prologue: The NEW Forest of the new, or tired of it. Emphasizing the novelty of a product
The NEW Forest is part of Dutch artist and designer Maarten may be one way to sell it; another effective way is to underline
Baas’ project New! Newer! Newest! It presents the plan to plant authenticity, tradition, craftsmanship, etc. (‘Like grandma used to
a forest of about 120 hectares in the Dutch polder of Flevoland. make it’). In Western politics, at least, this strategy has proven its
Viewed from high above, the forest shows a flashy logo saying value in the last few years, where right-wing and populist parties
New! This piece of land art, however, will not be completed for propagated the return to traditional values, or to some ‘golden era’
another two hundred years, when the trees will be fully grown. in which the nation was still great. Both of these sentiments—the
Just like in many of his other works, Baas seems to want us to longing as well as the suspicion for the new—have been part of the
experience time itself, in this case through a projection into the fabric of modern experience from the outset. To be modern, as
future. When the work is finally finished, we won’t be around an- Marshall Berman has stated in his classic study All That Is Solid
ymore (and, taking into account the rising sea level, it is even Melts into Air (1982), means to be ‘moved at once by a will to
questionable whether the Dutch polder will still be there). Thus, change—to transform both themselves and their world—and by a
the artwork confronts us with the unstoppable stream of time and terror of disorientation and disintegration, of life falling apart’
the finality of our own lives. (Berman 1988, p. 13).
Planting a forest is nothing new in itself; neither is hav- Today, however, the second half of this formula seems to
ing it grow in a certain shape. The NEW Forest is reminiscent of be gaining the upper hand, at least in the sphere of politics. In-
the Green Cathedral, the cathedral of poplars planted in 1970 by deed, the rise of populism and the far right seems to indicate that
conceptual artist Marinus Boezem, or, for that matter, of the mys- for more and more people, change and innovation are not, or no
terious Swastika forest planted in the district of Brandenburg in longer, associated with emancipation and liberation, but rather
the 1930s (which was only rediscovered and removed in 1992). with loss: loss of control, or autonomy, of freedom even. This un-
Unlike these forests, however, where nature is made to adopt a doubtedly is a reaction to a mode of governance in capitalist so-
traditional, or even religious shape, Baas chooses to let his forest ciety—ranging from the level of lower management to the level of
grow into the particularly contemporary shape of an advertise- global bodies such as the IMF—which Luc Boltanski describes as
ment logo that, with the seasons, changes colour from green to a peculiar mixture of volition and necessity of change:
red to yellow just like the neon ads in a shopping street.
There is a well-known phenomenon related to technologi- [The] elites wanted to be radically innovatory and mod-
cal innovation called the ‘horseless carriage syndrome’: whenever ernist. The core of their argument … was as follows: we
new, revolutionary technology is introduced it is often cloaked in should want change because it is inevitable. It is therefore
familiar forms either because the designers have not yet come up necessary to wish for necessity. Obviously, change will cre-
with anything else, or to let consumers adjust to this technology ate victims (those who will not be able to ‘keep pace with

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it’ and who some years later were to be called ‘the exclud- self fallen out of fashion since the dawn of neoliberalism, and has
ed’), but it would be worse if, ‘as leaders’, we did not man- been replaced by the predicate ‘contemporary’. What does it mean
age change; if we did not want it (Boltanski 2011, p. 130). to be contemporary, and what is the condition of contemporaneity
today? The philosopher Hermann Lübbe, in a beautiful German
Change, in short, is presented as something that is at the same neologism, speaks of Gegenwartsschrümpfung, a ‘shrinking of the
time inevitable—it will happen anyway, there is no alternative, so present’ (Lübbe 2000). The present, that is the temporal space in
don’t fight it!—and as ultimately desirable, for being the ‘lesser which we are able give meaning to our lives in terms of our past,
evil’. The strategy of turning what is essentially a historical state and from which we can orient ourselves towards the future, is
of being into something ‘natural’ (meaning: inevitable, law-like, becoming smaller and smaller. Following Lübbe one could argue
something that cannot be altered) has of course always been the that the predicate ‘contemporary’ expresses a longing: we wish to
cardinal principle of ideology. Ideology basically is the transforma- be contemporary, or get a grip on ‘the contemporary’, as soon as
tion or petrification of history into nature, i.e. what Georg Lukács the present becomes increasingly transient and ephemeral. The
called a ‘second nature’, or what Walter Benjamin and Theodor latest trends in fashion, technology, but also politics, philosophy,
W. Adorno called ‘natural history’ (Naturgeschichte). The peculiar science, and last but not least, art, are becoming outdated ever
move nowadays is, however, that it is precisely change itself that more quickly: what was en vogue today is passé tomorrow. In that
is presented as unchangeable. At most, we (that is, the elites) can regard contemporaneity is a myth.
only ‘manage’ change, make the best of it, get us through it, even At the same time, and unlike we did in the nineteenth cen-
though it will take some sacrifice. No wonder then that today for tury, we no longer cherish the belief that this constant innovation
a lot of people (especially the ones making the sacrifice) change and change is heading somewhere. The Kantian dream that had
is experienced as a form of subordination: thou shalt change, no us flying on the wings of science and technology towards ‘perpet-
matter what the cost, and whether you desire it or not. ual peace’ has been buried in the course of the twentieth century,
under the debris of two horribly destructive world wars. Indeed,
The Myth of Contemporaneity as Hartmut Rosa says, we still may believe that our phones and
For at least two centuries artists have been considered to be laptops will be increasingly faster and smarter, but this does not
agents of social change, at least since the French utopian-socialist necessarily lead to an improvement of our lives, or of the world
philosopher Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, in an essay from 1825, as a whole (Rosa 2013).1 Here too the shift from the modern to
named them the avant-garde of society (together with scientists the contemporary is revealing. The modernists saw a clear break
and philosophers). Although there have been numerous political- between themselves and the past and considered themselves as
ly conservative modernists (e.g. Eliot, Pound), still the very fasci- the pioneer for a different (and better) future. The modernist is
nation or obsession with innovation made artists suspicious in the the revolutionary dreamer, the one who will do it all differently,
eyes of the established political class that wanted to maintain the the very tool of history itself. The predicate ‘contemporary’ on
status quo, and thus a natural ally of revolutionary politics. Per- the other hand seems to say nothing more than: belonging to the
haps no one voiced this relationship as forcefully as the Russian present, that which appears today, without presupposing a clear
writer and politician Anatoly Lunacharsky in a text titled ‘Art and understanding of or attitude towards the past or the future.
Revolution’ (1920): ‘If revolution can give art its soul, then art can These two meanings of contemporary—as insatiable de-
give revolution its mouthpiece’ (quoted in Raunig 2007, p. 12). sire and as everyday banality—together form the central paradox
Given the fact that today it is capitalism itself that comes of our time, which is that the experience of accelerating life goes
closest to the Trotskyist ideal of a ‘permanent revolution’, does hand in hand with the experience that nothing really changes.
that mean that art is now capitalism’s mouthpiece, and that is has We are not yet out of the economic crisis, and the next wave of
thus sold its soul? In that regard it is noteworthy that the predicate financial scandals has already begun, while our politicians keep
of the ‘avant-garde’, let alone the predicate of the modern, has it- emphasizing that there really are no alternatives for neoliberal

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austerity, the demolition of the welfare system, and the privat- a socio-psychological level; money itself brings along with it a
ization of the commons. In museums and in biennales, the ex- temporal logic. The very ontology of money has a certain tempo-
perience described by art critic Robert Hughes as the ‘shock of ral core, which can explain why commodification, marketization,
the new’ has largely given way to the experience of déjà-vu. Retro and financialization lie at the root of the nullification of history’s
trends even seem to dominate geopolitics as we are entering a open horizon.
new Cold War, complete with nuclear threat and proxy wars. The In The Inhuman French philosopher Jean-François Ly-
formula Benjamin once used to characterize fashion now applies otard discusses this temporal logic of money, in an essay titled
to society as a whole: the eternal recurrence of the new. ‘Time Today’. The most basic form of exchange, writes Lyotard,
The myth of the contemporary is therefore first and fore- exists in the fact that person X gives person Y object A (for exam-
most a symptom of the contemporaneity of myth, if we under- ple a product or service) at time t, if and only if Y gives X object B
stand myth as a world view in which the fate of humankind is (in this case money) at time t’. What stands out in this formula is
subject to forces far beyond its control. Mythological thinking, that t’ (the moment of payment) is ahead in time, but nevertheless
following the line of thought of philosophers such as Benjamin, forms the precondition for what happens earlier at time t. In other
Horkheimer and Adorno, but also Roland Barthes, is essentially words, the moment t’ is not something that lies in an open future,
ahistorical, cyclical, and repetitive, like the hellish punishments something that can be expected or hoped for, but it is that which
of Sisyphus and Tantalus. As already mentioned, both Benjamin makes the whole process possible in the first place. Money is
and Adorno used the concept of ‘natural history’ as a critical cat- therefore time in a very literal way, namely a bridging of the time
egory describing how the contrasting poles of nature and history between two discrete moments, the guarantee that I will be able
had dialectically turned into their opposite. Nature traditionally to recover my investment (for example from work that I put into
was considered as existing and developing independently of hu- a product, or a financial investment). As a consequence, future
mankind, like the cycles of seasons and tides, while history—at and present collide into one another and nullify each other: the
least since Giambattista Vico—was considered as something the present is determined by a projected future and neutralized as a
course of which lies in human hands. ‘Natural history’, however, potential source for actual renewal, while the future is determined
designates the moment in which these concepts turn into their by the present, thus no longer open and contingent. As Lyotard
opposites: while we now assume that we can manipulate nature in writes: ‘Money here appears as what it really is, time stocked in
all its facets, including our own bodies and brains, we have come view of forestalling what comes about’ (Lyotard 1991, p. 66).
to regard social relations (i.e. history) as immutable and rigid, in In the thirty years that have passed since Lyotard wrote
other words as ‘nature’. We anxiously anticipate the next econom- this text, his words have only gained in truth, especially in a world
ic crisis, war, the very destruction of our planet, as if it is an ap- increasingly dominated by debt. Debt—mortgage debts, student
proaching thunderstorm, something that is beyond our control. loan debts, credit card debts, government debts, etc.—are what
Anyone who does propose an alternative is reproached for being keeps financial capitalism going, and thanks to debt even poverty
‘unrealistic’. But this ‘capitalist realism’ (Fisher 2009) is mythical is no longer an excuse for not consuming. By taking on a debt
thinking par excellence, for it considers history to be already writ- we pretend to take an advance on the future, thus controlling it:
ten in the stars, instead of something produced by human beings. why would you wait years to buy a new car/kitchen/television if
you can have it right now? But in fact, we ourselves are the ones
The Time of Money controlled by this projected future through the medium of debt.
This petrification of history into nature is not a mere conceptu- Often neither governments nor individual consumers are able to
al misunderstanding or a form of ‘false consciousness’ but has ever pay back all of their debts, but that was never the point. Debt,
its roots in the very structure of financial capitalism. ‘Time is as Nietzsche already saw, is primarily a source of power, a way
money’ is an old saying, telling us to speed up so as not to let of controlling people and having them submit to you (something
the competition catch up with us. But time is money not only on that became particularly clear during the debt crisis in Greece,

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where democracy was completely side-lined by the European genre, is that in some way one has to already know (or at least
troika in order to impose neoliberal reform). The Italian theorist pretend to know) the answer before asking the question. The actu-
Maurizio Lazzarato elaborately discussed this relationship be- al open question, the genuine curiosity, and the uncertain future
tween debt, time, and power in his book The Making of the Indebt- have no place in this dominant logic of the project. The project
ed Man (2012). There he also writes: ‘For debt simply neutralizes thus has the temporal form of debt: by engaging in a project, we
time, time as the creation of new possibilities, that is to say, the become indebted to the future. As Kunst writes:
raw material of all political, or esthetic change’ (Lazzarato 2012,
p. 49). Lazzarato’s mentioning of aesthetic change again brings us The present is thus a debt that we owe to the future: in
to the question what this means for the arts. order to live better we should not live in the present. How-
In that regard the contemporary art world can once more ever, the problem is that the future is never truly imagined
serve as a model for what unfolds in society as a whole. In the art anew but remains even more tightly bound to the constella-
world the neutralization of time can be very clearly recognized in tions of power in the present (Kunst 2012).
the notion of the ‘project’. If there is one thing that characteriz-
es contemporary art and distinguishes it from previous eras, it is What we should therefore do by means of resistance or counter-
that artists are no longer producing art works but rather art pro- movement, Kunst argues, is reclaim the present: ‘Only when we
jects. Several authors have pointed out the fact that the art world are able to simply be “alive” in the present will radical alternatives
is therefore the exemplary form, and in many ways even the fore- begin to bloom once again’ (Kunst 2012).
runner, of project-based labour under the ‘new spirit of capitalism’ In fact, Lyotard already proposed this: as opposed to the
(cf. Boltanski and Chiapello 2005; Gielen 2009; Kunst 2015). It temporal logic of the new, that is, the eternal recurrence of innova-
creates a temporary and flexible working relationship, which nev- tion in service of profit maximization, he developed an aesthetics
ertheless demands the utmost from the individual worker, thus of the now. His essay titled ‘The Sublime and the Avant-garde’ is
creating the perfect condition for mental and psychological ex- an attempt to decode a phrase of Barnett Newman: ‘the sublime
ploitation. One can never do enough for the project, never invest is now’. According to Lyotard, what matters in an artwork is not
enough time and energy in it; as long as it is not finished the work- what is happening (what you see or hear, who is on stage, what it
er has an infinite debt towards the project. means, and so on.), but that it happens, or in other words the hap-
More important in this context, though, is the specific tem- pening itself: the painted surface, the gesture, the tone or sound
poral logic that is part of the notion of the project, what Bojana that precedes all cognitive categorization and meaning-making
Kunst calls ‘projective temporality’ (Kunst 2015, p. 157). Indeed, processes. The art of the avant-garde is sublime, Lyotard argues,
the very etymology of the word as ‘something thrown forth’ im- not because it propels us into the future, but because it confronts
plies a projection into, meaning both an investment in and an us with this incomprehensible happening, or rather with the ques-
anticipation of the future. The project is an investment, but the tion: is it happening? (arrive-t-il)? Newman’s work is exemplary in
intended outcome is often already determined in advance, thus this regard: because it represents nothing, it presents us with the
neutralizing time itself. The reasons for this can be quite prosaic: happening of the painting itself, its ‘here and now’. In the conclu-
to do the project one needs a grant or an investor, and therefore sion of his essay he contrasts the now of the avant-garde with the
one has to legitimize the project so that it can be judged by others. new of capitalism:
As said, this is by no means unique of artistic work but character-
izes more and more domains of production. The contemporary [I]nnovating means to behave as though lots of things
scientist or scholar is also often a project worker, spending a lot happened, and to make them happen. Through innova-
of time finding partners or investors, building alliances and con- tion, the will affirms its hegemony over time. It thus con-
sortia, and of course writing research proposals. What makes the forms to the metaphysics of capital, which is a technology
research proposal in itself such a peculiar (and often frustrating) of time. The innovation ‘works’. The question mark of the

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Is it happening? stops. With the occurrence, the will is de- worker, manager, or lover. Thus, they are meant to strengthen our
feated. The avant-gardist task remains that of undoing the competitive position in the very rat race of which they pretend to
presumption of the mind with respect to time. The sub- liberate us.2 Finally, singing the praise of the present does not in
lime feeling is the name of this privation (Lyotard 1991, any way provide a solution to the problem of the petrification of
p. 107) history and the destruction of the future that is the result of the
temporal logic of capital. After all, the quasi-mystical experience
Indeed, in many contemporary art practices we see—in the artists of ‘presence’ is an emphatically individualistic and rather isolated
themselves as well as in their audiences—a longing or even nos- experience.3
talgia for the present. An exemplary case is Marina Abramovic’ It would therefore be unwise to remove the concept of the
performance in the MoMA during a retrospect exhibition of her new all too hastily from the lexicon of critical thinking, by iden-
work, tellingly titled The Artist is Present (2010). During opening tifying it with the temporal logic of capital, while trading it in for
hours, for as long as the exhibition was running (which was about the sublime ‘now’ of presence. The problem of contemporary cul-
three months), Abramovic sat in silence on a chair in the atri- ture is not the change or innovation per se, but rather the ‘eternal
um of the museum. Visitors could sit on a chair opposite to her, recurrence of the new’, that is the empty and automatic progress
and stare into her eyes for as long as they pleased. Many people of history that actually brings nothing new under the sun.
burst into tears when finally meeting Abramovic’ gaze, and in in-
terviews people spoke of an almost mystical experience of being Now-time
completely lost in the moment. The success of the performance The new, as Boris Groys already argued, is a relational catego-
and its attraction to a mass audience, without a doubt, has some- ry: ‘The new is new in its relation to the old, to tradition’ (Groys
thing to do with the cult of the star being ‘present’, that is: there 2014, p. 6). This is why it can only be recognized and understood
in the building, but probably also with the other meaning of the against the background of tradition and its cultural archives (lit-
word, namely being in the present moment, or in other words the eral archives such as museums or libraries, but think also of the
sublime experience or presence Lyotard was talking about. canon, university curriculums, and so on). This means that the
And yet, this nostalgia for presence should raise our suspi- destruction of the future also has implications for how we relate
cion, for a number of reasons. First, the ‘here and now’, despite to history. Since we no longer seem able to project a meaningful
its sublimity and evanescence, has proven to be quite marketable, future, we also have difficulty determining what is relevant for our
and thus not so contrary to the temporal logic of capitalism af- past. As a result, we see a tendency to preserve anything, both on
ter all. Presence fits into the very commodification of time and an individual and collective level. Like the hard drives of our com-
the ‘spectacle-ization’ of culture, which entails the marketing of puters become clogged with digital photos and notes, public space
festivals, exhibitions, and events where you have to be. The very gets cluttered with heritage sites. The musealization of cities has
uniqueness and singularity of such events is a by now well-known become a serious issue for its inhabitants, while also landscapes,
advertisement tool, as witness the mushrooming ‘once-in-a- plants and animals, and local customs are declared as ‘heritage’
lifetime’ experiences one could have on an daily basis. Indeed, (Hartog 2005; Ter Schure 2016). It seems as though we hold on
Abramovic’ retrospective and performance drew a record break- to history all the more desperate as we become less able to write
ing number of visitors to the museum, with people queuing up for history ourselves.
hours and even sleeping in front of the museum before opening Rethinking the new therefore requires, first of all, a differ-
time, as if it was a pop concert. Second, a contemporary reader of ent attitude towards history. ‘Always historicize!’, Fredric Jameson
Lyotard’s words cannot help but think of the countless self-help famously said—he even called it the only absolute and transhistori-
gurus and mindfulness-coaches telling one to ‘be in the moment’. cal imperative—but the question is of course how to historicize. As
All too often, though, such discourses function as self-improve- Nietzsche already saw clearly, it is not a matter of increasing the
ment therapies, i.e. to help one to better function as employer, burden on our shoulders with mountains of historical heritage—

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230 231
which would be stifling rather than igniting action—nor should the outdated architecture, the earliest photographs, old fashion items,
new be considered in terms of mere accumulation, as the next step and other obsolete artefacts. These phenomena contain revolu-
in a continuous history of progress. The new, the truly new, allows tionary energy because they express the dreams of a previous gen-
us to view the tradition in a whole new light. eration; now that they have become trash, it is clear that these
This is also what Walter Benjamin had in mind with his dreams have not come true. This insight is not meant to make us
concept of ‘now-time’ (Jetztzeit), which he developed in his Ar- feel melancholic or nostalgic, but rather calls for action to fulfil
cades Project and in the theses ‘On the Concept of History’ (1940). these broken promises. As Slavoj Žižek puts it: ‘[T]he future one
Benjamin was a fierce critic of an evolutionary conception of should be faithful to is the future of the past itself, in other words,
progress, according to which we could passively see how history the emancipatory potential that was not realized due to the failure
would unfold before our eyes, and that moreover assumed that all of the past attempts and that for this reason continues to haunt us’
human suffering in this history of progress should somehow be (Žižek 2008, p. 394).
regarded as a necessary evil. Moreover, Benjamin argued that it is This is an important corrective of contemporary attempts
always the victors writing the history of progress, as he vigorously to restore utopian thinking and rehabilitate the concept of ‘pro-
stated in saying that ‘there is no document of culture which is not gress’, which time and again threaten to fall into the trap of pledg-
at the same time a document of barbarism’ (Benjamin 2003, p. ing the past as well as the present to the future by developing a
392). blueprint of the latter. Marx, in The 18th Brumaire, had ridiculed
Benjamin’s interest lay with the ‘trash’ of history, as he for- the historical dressing-up parties of the previous revolutionaries,
mulated it, with the missed opportunities of the losers of history. arguing that the coming revolution ‘cannot take its poetry from
‘Now-time’, in his view, was an interruption of the historical con- the past but only from the future’ (Marx 1852). But perhaps there
tinuum, but we should not understand it as a simple dwelling in is, as Benjamin argued, more revolutionary power hidden in ‘the
the present as previously discussed with regard to Lyotard and image of enslaved ancestors … than [in] the ideal of liberated
the mindfulness gurus. On the contrary, now-time is a moment grandchildren’ (Benjamin 2003, p. 394). To historicize, in other
in which an image from a suppressed and unfinished past impos- words, means to face the contingency of history: it could have
es itself on the present, making a connection with it. Together, been otherwise, which means it can be otherwise. Thus, an un-
past and present form what he calls a ‘dialectical image’. This is, derstanding of history prompts us to a new conception of time,
of course, an oxymoron: dialectics presuppose motion while an and in turn a different concept of time could change the course of
image is static. But images can nevertheless collide with each oth- history, making the new possible in the first place.
er, reflect on each other, and evoke new meanings, as in the first
photomontages of artists such as Man Ray and John Heartfield. Epilogue: The Artist as Rag Picker
Benjamin gives an example of such a picture by quoting Leonardo Julian Rosefeldt’s installation Manifesto is an overwhelming col-
da Vinci, who described how the person to first construct a flying lage of thirteen short movies, each starring Cate Blanchett in a
machine would grab snow from the mountaintops in the summer different role, proclaiming lines taken from more than fifty ar-
and would scatter it over the hot streets. Such an image would tistic manifestoes. Rosefeldt himself characterized his film as a
be likely to shock Benjamin’s contemporaries, most of whom homage, a ‘manifesto for manifestoes’, yet one cannot help but
witnessed firsthand how it was mainly bombs scattered from air- get the impression that the installation is just as much a eulogy
planes. The utopian dreams of the past thus collide with the grim for it, a farewell to the manifesto. After all, not our, but the past
reality of the present. century was the century of the manifesto. The oldest artistic man-
‘Now-time’ is a ‘tiger’s leap’ into history, meant to blast ifesto quoted by Rosefeldt is Marinetti’s ‘Manifesto of Futurism’
open the historical continuum. Benjamin was first inspired by from 1909, the most recent one dates from 2004. Throughout the
the surrealists, who discovered ‘the revolutionary energies that twentieth century the -isms emerged at a rate of knots, each of
appear in the “outmoded”’ (Benjamin 1999, p. 210), namely in them ushered in with a manifesto. In spite of all the pessimism

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about war and destruction there was at least the artist who knew, the truly new means something else than being somehow ‘ahead’
or pretended to know, the right way. of one’s time, let alone adding yet another gimmick to the trash
Art that knows the only right path, the one direction we heap of outmoded novelties. Artists deserving the predicate ‘in-
should be heading – this is an idea that we have given up on, not novative’ let the presence collide with tradition, thus offering an
only in view of the multitude of styles and directions that charac- alternative understanding of the past as well as opening up a new
terize contemporary art, but also because in retrospect this idea perspective towards the future. Such works are neither a mere mo-
always belonged to a typically Western, and therefore limited con- ment in a continuous flow of time, nor a wallowing in the ‘here
ception of art history, and of history in general. In one of the and now’ but lift the present from the historical continuum. Only
scenes of Manifesto we see a tramp roaming an abandoned and by rewriting history can the truly new come about.
derelict industrial site, while the voice-over proclaims these lines
of Constant Nieuwenhuys: ‘In this period of change, the role of
the artist can only be that of the revolutionary.’ But can the artist
still be revolutionary at a time when everything around us is con-
stantly changing, in a world in which neoliberal capitalism itself
seems to sail best in the event of constant crisis and catastrophe,
or permanent revolution?
Benjamin writes: ‘Catastrophe is progress; progress is ca-
tastrophe’ (Benjamin 1991, p. 1244, translation TL). This is no
mere syntactic inversion. The words mean different things in the
two parts of the sentence. Progress, understood in the tradition-
al teleological and social-evolutionist way, indeed turns out to be
one single catastrophe. But this also means that true progress can
only exist in a catastrophe (from katastrephein, to overturn) that
brings the blind course of ‘natural’ progression to a halt. The rev-
olution is not the locomotive of history, as Marx had argued, but
rather the grip on the emergency brake that brings the runaway
train to a standstill. Today, perhaps even more than ever before,
we seem to be in such a runaway train, rushing towards the abyss.
An interruption of history, however, cannot be brought about by
art, but should itself be an historical event.
Perhaps we should see the tramp in Rosefeldt’s film as
Benjamin’s ‘rag picker’, that messianic figure who collects the gar-
bage from the streets on the morning of the revolution. Moreover,
Rosefeldt seems to identify the artist (and with that himself) with
this rag picker, who still sees the value of in the rags that others
have carelessly thrown away. In this case, the rags are the artistic
manifestoes that in their new constellation are given historical
strength again. That was the crucial insight of Benjamin: that his-
torical awareness can only arise in the face of the waste of history.
What, in the end, does it mean to be innovative? Do we
need to come up with a new definition of the new? In any case,

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Notes Reference anderes Wachstum, ed. Frithjof Hager
and Werner Schenkel. Berlin and
1  ee also the interview with Rosa in
S —— Benjamin, Walter. 1991. Abhandlungen: Heidelberg: Springer.
this volume. Gesammelte Schriften, Band I-3, ed. —— Lyotard, Jean-François. 1991. The
2 Mindfulness and meditation Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Inhuman: Reflections on Time, trans.
techniques are in fact increasingly Schweppenhäuser. Frankfurt am Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel
used in the top managerial layers of Main: Suhrkamp. Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University
international businesses and banks, as —. 1999. Selected Writings: Volume 2, Press.
well by the US Army to help soldiers Part I, 1927–1930, ed. Michael W. —— Marx, Karl. 1852. The Eighteenth
overcome their fear of pulling the Jennings et al. Cambridge MA: The Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, retrieved
trigger or deal with PTSS (Bloemink Belknap Press of Harvard University from www.marxists.org on February
2015). Press. 2018.
3 See also Rosa’s critique of ‘oases’ of —. 2003. Selected Writings: Volume 4, —— Raunig, Gerald. 2007. Art and
resonance in Rosa 2016 as well as in 1938–1940, ed. Michael W. Jennings. Revolution: Transversal Activism in the
the interview in this volume. Cambridge MA: The Belknap Press of Long Twentieth Century, trans. Aileen
Harvard University Press. Derieg. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
—— Berman, Marshall. 1988 (1982). —— Rosa, Hartmut. 2013. Social
All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Acceleration: A New Theory of
Experience of Modernity. New York: Modernity, trans. Jonathan Trejo-
Penguin. Mathys. New York: Columbia
—— Bloemink, Sanne. 2015. ‘Mindfulness: University Press.
De nieuwe religie voor ongelovigen.’ —. 2016. Resonanz: Eine Soziologie der
De Groene Amsterdammer 139, no. 32, Weltbeziehung. Berlin: Suhrkamp.
pp. 28–31. —— Ter Schure, Leon. 2016. Bergson and
—— Boltanski, Luc. 2011. On Critique: History: Transforming the Modern
A Sociology of Emancipation, trans. Regime of Historicity. Groningen:
Gregory Elliott. Cambridge: Polity. Rijksuniversiteit.
—, and Eve Chiapello. 2005 (1999). —— Žižek, Slavoj. 2008. In Defense of Lost
The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Causes. London: Verso.
Gregory Elliott. London: Verso.
—— Fisher, Mark. 2009. Capitalist Realism:
Is There No Alternative? London: Zero
Books.
—— Gielen, Pascal. 2009. The Murmuring
of the Artistic Multitude: Global Art,
Memory and Post-Fordism. Amsterdam:
Valiz.
—— Groys, Boris. 2014. On the New, trans.
G.M. Goshgarian. London and New
York: Verso.
—— Hartog, François. 2005. ‘Time and
Heritage.’ Museum International 57,
no. 3, pp. 7–18.
—— Kunst, Bojana. 2012. ‘The Project
Horizon: On the Temporality of
Making.’ Manifesta Journal #16,
retrieved from: www.manifestajournal.
org/issues/regret-and-other-back-
pages/project-horizon-temporality-
making.
—. 2015. The Artist at Work: Proximity
of Art and Capitalism. London: Zero
Books.
—— Lazzarato, Maurizio. 2012. The
Making of the Indebted Man. Los
Angeles: Semiotext(e).
—— Lübbe, Hermann. 2000.
‘Gegenwartsschrümpfung und
zivilisatorische Selbsthistorisierung.’
In Schrumpfungen: Chancen für ein

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Predicting
Innovation
Artistic Novelty
and Digital
Forecast
Elena Esposito

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238 239
Does the new have a future? It certainly has a past. The idea and In modern times forms emerged and quickly became estab-
the evaluation of the new have a history and underwent big trans- lished, such as fashion, that based their credibility precisely on the
formations, which signal corresponding transformations in the promise of a continual renewal. Of fashion we only know that it
semantics of society and its relationship with time. will change. We do not know how and why (fashion is primarily
First of all, the valorization of the new as a positive, fas- characterized by not having a reason), but we know that next sea-
cinating, and stimulating aspect has a history. Until the modern son something else will be fashionable, while what’s ‘in’ will be
age, i.e. for many centuries, this was not the case: new meant pri- ‘out’ and will no longer be followed. Fashion is not liked despite
marily wrong, disturbing, and irritating. Novelty broke out as an its change, it is liked because it changes. We follow what is ‘in’
annoyance in a world made of consolidated expectations, it chal- because we know that soon it will be ‘out’, so it does not bind us to
lenged them and forced them to restructure. When you recognize anything other than constant change. What will become ‘in’ will it-
and accept the new, you have to change your references to take self be ‘out’ and something different will emerge again that will be-
account of it, and this is always a laborious and often a contro- come popular because it is new (or presented as new: think of vin-
versial process. Old references had been tested, consolidated by tage). This instability does not concern only clothing but spreads
tradition, and confirmed by authorities and experience. The new, in all fields, from philosophical orientation to eating habits, from
if it is really new, comes out of nothing and has nothing to con- medical practices to religion—the field which provoked the greatest
firm it. We have no experience of the new, except that it forces us resistance in the 17th and 18th centuries when the phenomenon of
to revise our experience. fashion (itself new) was for the first time analyzed and commented
Recognizing something as new also has the annoying con- upon. And of course, there are also artistic modes, indeed in that
sequence that what was there before, which appeared familiar field fashion took peculiar forms, as we shall see.
and reliable, suddenly becomes old—not because of some intrinsic Fashion is the model of a different kind of stability, which
characteristic, but simply by contrast with the emerging new. By is not based on tradition and constancy but on exploration and
itself, the ‘old’ model of the iPhone or of the car is not unsatis- transformation. In fashion everything changes, except the fact
factory and does not look flawed, but with the release of the new that fashion changes. Change becomes the only constant refer-
version it immediately becomes obsolete, with all related conse- ence, the only thing we can count on. This understanding of the
quences. As Niklas Luhmann argued, looking for the new makes new also corresponds to the open future of modern society, with
the world age and forces us to constantly seek further innovations. the spread of uncertainty and at the same time the lure of the
This is obviously an extremely tiring condition, and it is possibility of actively building our future. In the form of an open
understandable that for many centuries the new was avoided, and future, we actually face a world to come that no one can know
people tried, as far as possible, to neutralize it as a simple mistake because it does not exist yet. The future is not predetermined,
or stigmatize it as bad and devious. This, however, is not the no- decided by some higher entity who already knows the course of
tion of new that is familiar to us, the one whose future we want things, and can therefore accommodate our projects and our fan-
to analyze. Since the 17th century, a radical change took place: tasies. In the open future, it is always possible for these projects to
now we like the new—in fact we only like what is new. Not only be realized, although obviously it is not assured—it does not, how-
is novelty not stigmatized anymore, it is actively looked for and ever, depend on destiny or a predetermined order of the world, but
in all areas of society becomes the condition for something to be (also) on what we and others do or don’t do today. The future is
appreciated. In science, in mass media, in politics, in private life, open but not arbitrary. What will happen tomorrow also depends
you first look if a proposal has elements of novelty—and only after- on us, but we do not know how: if we do nothing or do different
wards you decide if you possibly like it. If there is nothing new, the things, it will happen otherwise, but our actions can always have
proposal is often not even considered (unless the rejection of the unexpected results.
new is presented as an innovation). In art, as we shall see shortly, This is the basis of our chronic insecurity but also of the
this tendency finds its utmost expression. inexhaustible fascination of experimentation, especially in art.

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One looks for answers that in turn give rise to other questions. fraud in advance, preventing illness—but also focusing prevention
It is the attempt (not just in the avant-gardes) to locate oneself and crime deterrence on people and groups most at risk.
ahead of the present, to anticipate, discover, and test the possi- What happens to the new in digital society, if you can
bilities that are not yet there and see what happens. The quest for know it in advance? Can there still be something really new, and
the new is exasperated and purified to the essence of surprise—at how can one experience it? How can we know today a future that
the cost of deviance and incomprehensibility. The critical element is not yet there? Algorithms promise to do so because they work
and the ‘counter’ connotation of a large part of arts in the modern performatively and situationally: they do not foresee the future
understanding are linked to the search and extremization of the in general, but the future they themselves contribute to shape.
new, which is by its nature different and deviant. The same rea- By analyzing large quantities of data, structured and largely un-
son for which novelty has been refused and stigmatized for many structured (the famous Big Data), algorithms identify patterns
centuries has become the driving principle of artistic production, (often incomprehensible to human logic) that should show the
and also the root of its improbability. Art, which searches for the underlying structures of an individual’s behaviour or a situation,
new, in order to be appreciated must be annoying and disturbing, and work with them. If the patterns show that a user who has
hence different and ‘opposing’. purchased a product is compatible with the purchase of another
This normalization of deviance has long been known and product (even if you don’t know why and on the basis of which
is the basis of the social function of modern arts as an instance connections), you offer this product to him or her, contributing
of irritation and experimentation with the possible—and of its thereby to shape the predicted future. Perhaps the user was not
self-stylization as well. But the difficulties of art and its legitimacy even aware of the existence of that product, and he or she did
arise when the circle closes and deviance becomes routine. If the not feel the need at all: the user bought a Class A dryer and the
quest for the new is the normal condition of artistic experimenta- system offers him of her an adventure trip to Africa. If he or she
tion, surprise is what is expected, and as such is no longer surpris- decides to buy it, the algorithm has changed the conditions of
ing. The production of novelty becomes boring, deviance is repet- the future and confirms its prediction—if the user does not buy
itive, and experimentation folds back onto itself. The avant-gardes it, the algorithm learns from experience and refines its predic-
and the critics of the avant-gardes know this process very well. tive ability.
If this is the present of the new, what can we say about its In some fields, this ability of algorithms to intervene in the
future? What is happening (or seems to be emerging) to the par- future raises doubts and perplexities. One wonders if and how
able of the new? Are we witnessing a different idea of new, a new such a punctual and performative prediction is possible, and what
(?) meaning of innovation? If we look at what appears today in are its costs. There are actually heavy pre-emption problems and
many aspects as a true avant-garde (if only because, as much as risks of depriving the future of its open possibilities. Just think
authentic innovation, it often appears incomprehensible), namely of the ‘minority report’-like case of an algorithm identifying cit-
the development of digital procedures and algorithms, one may izens at risk of committing a crime and intervening before the
think this is so. The future of modern society was built of novelties event happens. If decisions are taken today on security measures
and surprises and was therefore inherently unpredictable. On this about profiled possible criminals, their behaviour is constrained
were based the uncertainty and the opportunities in the relation- but also the options of the decision maker are limited. If then the
ship with the future. Today, however, algorithms claim to predict crimes turn out to happen somewhere else, one will be watching
the future. The research area of Predictive Analytics is explicitly the wrong people. Instead of looking ahead one will be looking
devoted to this: mining data to discover the structures of the fu- back and the present will be forced to reproduce the image of
ture. The promises are glittering. The ability to anticipate future the future that the algorithm had foreseen. The present future is
trends should help to optimize the use of resources, for example reduced to the past future. The problem in this case is not just
targeting advertisements to the people who are or can be interested the risk of a wrong prediction, but the reduction of future possi-
in a certain product or service, finding out problems or possible bilities for all involved actors.

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Here, however, we ask another question: what happens to
the new in a world of algorithmic predictions? How can art still
experiment with unprecedented possibilities, if the scope of the
possible is structured in advance by algorithmic procedures?
What we can observe is that in a world of performative
algorithms art itself seems to become more performative, incor-
porating the reference to the current situation and to the behav-
iour of the audience. Performance art happens and disappears
in a precise point in time and space, including the participants
and the present context; interactive art and participatory art rely
on the participation of the audience and on its inclusion in the
work. In these cases, the effect (the artistic novelty) is produced
by what the artist cannot (and now does not want) to control: the
actual context and the intervention of the public in the situation
structured by the work, which are always different and always un-
predictable.
People, their behaviour, and their contexts are an inex-
haustible source of diverse data, whose variety seems to become
the resource for a different search for novelty—both in the pro-
duction of works of art and in the curation of exhibition spaces.
In visitor-centred exhibitions the rooms, the selection of works,
their localization in galleries and museums and in the relation-
ship to one another are becoming more and more structured and
somehow pre-conceptualized to produce always different effects.
The artistic setting is the preparation of an unpredictable novelty,
produced in ever different presents. The future of the new, in a
sense, seems to come back to the present, which immediately goes
by and cannot be fixed—except in memory and in forecast, where
it is not present.

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Contra-
Contemporary
Suhail Malik
Once the priority of the avant-gardes, the future of the new is temporary art is an instructive representative of the modification
now a commonplace. Stabilized in art and transposed to design, from modernity to such a postmodernity. The final section of this
business, engineering, technoscience, experience-based entertain- chapter contrasts contemporaneity with another identification of
ment, responses to climate change, and so on, the new is a gener- postmodernity, wherein a specifically modern futurity is not an-
al and ubiquitous feature of contemporary social formation and nulled but, rather, exacerbated to the point of being the premise
transformation. Transformation, because the new marks today to of the present, which is then an intrinsically speculative present.
be distinct from yesterday; that today is ‘futural’ rather than tra- The operational primacy of the future reorders the received time
ditional. The future is happening now. Everywhere. All the time. sequence of past-present-future for the composition of the present,
Yet, in an important sense, elaborated below, and as the a reordering comprising the speculative time-complex.
artistic avant-gardes contested, if the future is to be truly futural, The critical point in this rederivation of postmodernity is
it must be distinct from the past and the present; previously un- that the surpassing of modernity does not lead to the cancellation
heralded, the new future will be newer than what is now known of the future because the future is vitiated, as prevailing critiques
or experienced. In this sense, the new future is itself in the future. propose, but rather that the historical sense of futurity and poli-
And if the primary issue of politics is the dispute over that new fu- tics is overwhelmed by a surfeit of futurity. The future of the fu-
ture and its practical construction—what tomorrow will be, what ture is then primarily an issue of whether the present is capable
it should be, and how to attain justice then (however justice is oth- of a new future at all or too much so. And that is a politics of
erwise determined)—then the demands, divergences, constraints, postmodernity. But, as will be contested, this is, first, not politics
and contingencies that comprise politics are accompanied by a in the Arendtian sense but the new precondition for it; and it is,
reflexive complication in its theorization that sets the scheme of second, the mandating of a new future subsequent to modernity.
this chapter. Namely, that if the new, utterly distinct from the pres- Combined, the conclusion is that the future of the new is emphat-
ent and the past, is in the future (it will happen then), then a new ically operationalized by a postmodernism that inaugurates the
future for the present is at present a future for the future. future of the future to the detriment of establishing the present; a
While this complex formulation only rehearses that the postmodernism that is contra-contemporary.
new future is indeed in the future, its elaboration leads to the
more precise formulation of the problem to be addressed in this Action
chapter: that while the new future can be proclaimed, desired, For Arendt, the new is a consequence of action, and action is a
acted on and acted for, nonetheless, for all its semantic and sig- uniquely human attribute:
nifying effects, it is in fact an unknown—precisely because it is in
the future. The present future can never in fact know or presume It is in the nature of beginning that something new is start-
the future present.1 As the dispute over the making of what the ed which cannot be expected from whatever may have
new future could be and should be, politics is then also where and happened before. … The fact that man is capable of action
how the conditions for the future of the future are set. means that the unexpected can be expected from him, that
Abstract and formal as this definition of politics may be, he is able to perform what is infinitely improbable. And
it serves to generalize the now canonical theorization proposed this again is possible because each man is unique, so that
by Hannah Arendt in the late 1950s. The significance of that gen- with each birth something uniquely new comes into the
eralization will become apparent once Arendt’s formulation has world.2
been specified and then located in a broader characterization of
modernity provided by Reinhard Koselleck. The futurity intrinsic Action gives rise to the unexpected, to what is truly new, because
to modernity identified by Koselleck provides the terms for distin- action is unpredictable, and this is in part because of the unique-
guishing it from contemporaneity, which is defined here primarily ness of the individual who acts—an individuality that is itself the
as a distinct postmodern formation that ‘cancels’ the future. Con- consequence of ‘the organization of the people as it arises out of

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acting and speaking together’ in what Arendt calls the ‘space of the space of appearances—for a determination of the future of the
appearances’.3 It is this uniqueness in the space of appearance new. The possibility of the new is guaranteed for Arendt by the
and the possibility of the unexpected which brings ‘something fact of human natality—each human being is a unique possibility
uniquely new into the world at birth’: not the infant per se, but for a new future—and reborn with each act and word in the space
the possibility of the unexpected that the new-born may one day of appearances. Each action uniquely inaugurates its as yet un-
enact. This possibility and unpredictability is occasioned not only known future.
at birth but reiterated and renewed with every entry by anybody— Arendt derives the unpredictability of action from the
any body—in the space of appearances. Arendt calls that renewal discrepancy between the ‘fleeting moment of the deed’ and the
‘initiative’ and for her it defines human being: retrospective account of its meaning, which is also a time gap.
The mobilization of that discrepancy is not particular to Arendt’s
It is initiative from which no human being can refrain and theorization but calls on the standard modern distinction be-
still be human. With word and deed we insert ourselves tween lived history (Geschichte in German) and the historical
into the human world, and this insertion is like a second record (Historie) or historiography. Yet, as Reinhard Koselleck
birth, in which we confirm and take upon ourselves the na- contends, it is not the primacy of action that requires a belated
ked fact of our original physical appearance. This insertion recounting as Arendt proposes, but precisely the opposite: the
… springs from the beginning which came into the world modern conception of action is a consequence of a specific for-
when we were born and to which we respond by beginning mation of distinction between the two notions of history. More
something that is new on our own initiative. To act, in its exactly, Koselleck notes, it was only around 1780, ‘following the
most general sense, means to take an initiative, to begin…, emergence of history as an independent and singular key con-
to set something in motion.4 cept’, that the previous two millennia old Occidental notion of
history as recounted stories (Geschichten) transformed into one
Yet action is also unpredictable because its consequences can only of a history that could also be made, which, as Arendt reiterates
be told retrospectively. That is, the story of the act—what the ac- in her own way, is the inauguration of modernity as the making
tion is—is apprehended upon its completion—what the action was: of history by human action.6
Koselleck’s principal contention is that this transformation
the second outstanding character [of action is] its inher- was itself a consequence of a long-term semantic ‘convergence’ in
ent unpredictability. This … arises directly out of the story the distinct terms for history in German (amongst other Europe-
which, as the result of action, begins and establishes itself an national languages).7 With that semantic shift,
as soon as the fleeting moment of the deed is past. The
trouble is that whatever the character and content of the history as reality [Geschichte] and the reflection upon this
subsequent story may be … its full meaning can reveal itself history [Historie] were brought together in a common con-
only when it has ended.5 cept, as history in general. The process of events and of
their apprehension in consciousness converged henceforth
The necessary belatedness of the comprehension of action makes in one and the same concept.
it unpredictable—which is to say, without clear meaning at the
time it takes place. Together, the unexpectedness and unpredict- Though apparently arcane, it is this conceptual identification of
ability of action comprise its freedom, which is the freedom of two notions of history by a ‘history in general’ that leads to the
human beings who act and speak in the space of appearances; inauguration of modernity. For three main reasons:
political freedom. – For Koselleck the well-remarked ‘division of labour’ of histo-
Schematic though this outline is, it suffices to identify the ry-making points not to their incongruity but to an underlying
relevance of Arendt’s theorization of politics—what takes place in semantic unity:

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It clearly is a matter of the same history which is made on anthropogenic future-facing history-making. Arendt incarnates
the one side and written down on the other. History seems anthropogenic history-making by allocating it to the birth of
to be disposable [verfügbar] in a dual fashion: for the agent each human individual, to ‘the naked fact of [its] original physi-
who disposes of the history that he makes, and for the his- cal appearance’. And the complete Arendtian sense of the term,
torian who disposes of it by writing it up. … The scope for in which the action is constituted by human freedom and auton-
the disposition of history is determined by men. omy alone, is the realization of the modern recomposition of
history according to the anthropogenic horizon of expectation,
‘Disposable’ here captures two of Koselleck’s main theses: the a historically specific modernity that Arendt then transcenden-
immediate one is that the understanding of history being made, talizes as a transhistorical ‘space of appearances’, precisely as
which is new with modernity and defining of it, is contiguous with the generality of anthropogenic world history mandates.
the writing of history rather than opposed to it. Despite the appar- That recomposition of history for action is specifically
ent discrepancy between lived and written histories mobilized by modern because of its anthropogenics, which breaks from the
Arendt, her theorization of action’s unpredictability is consistent previous Christian ecclesiastical ordering of history. Actionable
with Koselleck on this point: though action is unpredictable be- history, Koselleck notes, means
cause its meaning is incomplete, the historical record gives the
meaning of the action, which presumes the semantic unity be- an implied renunciation of an extrahistorical level. The ex-
tween history being made and its subsequent account.8 perience or apprehension of history in general no longer
– The second ‘disposition’ and main thesis Koselleck highlights required recourse to God or nature. In other words, the
as providing the conditions for the emergence of modernity is history that was experienced as novel was, from the begin-
that the semantic convergence of the two senses of history in the ning, synonymous with the concept of world history itself.
mid-eighteenth century subordinates its writing to its enacting. It was no longer a case of a history that merely took place
The then-new formation of the concept of history therefore meant through and with the humanity of the Earth. In Schelling’s
that particular recounted histories and experiences came to be words of 1798: man has history ‘not because he participates
subordinated to a ‘history in general’, a ‘singular’ and common in it, but because he produces [hervorbringt] it’.
history of realization with action having the conceptual priority.
Two transformations to the previous concept of history follow: (i) That history is ‘produced’ by the ‘humanity of the Earth’ as a
the recounting of history [Historie] is ‘diminished’: singular events world history again recalls Arendt’s species identification of hu-
and experiences can then be localized and framed in terms of a manity as uniquely able to act. But that intrinsic universalism is
new concept of world history and also of a world-making. And itself historically placed with the ‘renunciation of an extrahistori-
(ii) history is directed instead to the ‘social and political planes cal level’ for which human history would merely be the mundane
for planful activity that points to the future’. In short, history ‘be- manifestation. Koselleck’s derivation of modernity on the basis
came a concept of action’ with a horizon of expectation.9 Because of this ‘renunciation’ is crucial to the following discussion, in par-
it is actionable, ‘one is increasingly capable of planning and also ticular because it provides the schematics for how and why con-
executing history’. figurations of the new future determine not only the inauguration
– Combined, and to deploy a term that is not Koselleck’s, these of modernity qua anthropogenic world history—action, as Arendt
partial results lead to the conclusion that world history is an calls it—but also its successors.
anthropogenic history. More specifically, the recomposition of
history according to ‘history in general’ sanctions the making Modernity
of history according to an encompassing anticipation, foresight, What is renounced with the emergence of the concept of actiona-
and planning, which is to say according to an anthropogenic ble history is the Christian eschatology constituting European or-
horizon of expectation.10 In this sense, as with Arendt, action is thodoxy up until the mid-seventeenth century. Guaranteeing that

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252 253
divine justice would eventually arrive, the terminal transhistorical because it distinguishes the present in which action is instigat-
scheme of the Last Judgement preset the terms and conclusion ed against both the past and the future, ‘the neue Zeit of history
of all experience and expectation, meaning that ‘nothing funda- was also impregnated with the difference which was torn open
mentally new would arise’, validating the drawing of ‘conclusions between one’s own time and that of the future, between previous
from the past for the future’.11 By contrast, anthropogenic history experience and the expectation of what was to come’.17 That is, the
as a world history—a world that will then be an anthropogenic future is new because it is distinct from both past and present. Ac-
world—abrogates the ‘constant expectation of the imminent arriv- tion per the historicity of the new time is then historical freedom.
al of doomsday’, which in turn ‘revealed … a temporality … that The epochal characterization of the neue Zeit of history
would be open for the new and without limit’.12 That is, anthropo- follows from the resetting of the past too, according to the dimen-
genic action afforded by the semantic recomposition of history, sion of the new time. The disjuncture of the horizon of experience
as the making of world history, ‘reveals’ a temporality for which and the horizon of expectation by action in the present modifies
the limitlessly new is a historical possibility. While the renuncia- not just what the future can be but also recorded history (Historie),
tion of the Eurochristian eschatological horizon of expectation which is ‘temporalized in the sense that, thanks to the passing of
by anthropogenic history does not change the future orientation time, it altered according to the given present’.18 To be clear: the
of history, it does recompose that futurity as a temporality rather modification of the past Koselleck identifies is not primarily that
than divine justice. This temporality of anthropogenic history is recorded events are revised by current historians because of the
comprised of the future of new. demands of actions in the present; rather that the historicity of
Time is then the historical opening to a new history, a his- time means that ‘the nature of the past also altered’.19 What the
toricity instigated by action. And, as Arendt argues, it is intrin- past is in relation to the present and future is determined on the
sic to that historicity of time that it continues to mandate new fu- basis of the freedom of anthropogenic action, not their continuity
tures—which may or may not bring justice, depending now only or the constraints that the past places on the present and future,
on the anthropogenic actions taken from now into the future. which is traditionalism.
The terminal premise of Eurochristian history, humanity and its The general resetting of time as the historicity of the pres-
cosmic composition are thereby abolished.13 More significantly, ent qua anthropogenic action is, then, the historicity of the past.
and what inaugurates modernity, is that because what can hap- More than the possibility of the present being different to the
pen in the future will be new, the future is now transformable past, the neue Zeit ‘is indicative of new events never before experi-
and in fact unknown, distinct then from what Koselleck calls enced in such a fashion’.20 Accordingly, the neue Zeit is ‘new in the
the horizon of experience, which is configured according to the sense of completely other’ to the eschatological continuity of time
present and the past.14 and history, instead ‘assum[ing] an emphasis that attributes to the
Koselleck traces the emergence of an explicit modernity new an epochal, temporal character’. And by the late-nineteenth
(Neuzeit) through a lexical development by which the migration century that ‘epochal, temporal’ character of the new gives the
of historicity to time becomes an epochal characteristic. In brief, neue Zeit a common name that belatedly yet precisely registers the
the supplanting of Eurochristian historical organization means time-condition of the open future: Neuzeit, modernity.21
that time ‘is no longer simply the medium in which all histories
take place; it gains a historical quality’.15 More exactly, ‘history Contemporaneity
no longer occurs in, but through, time. Time becomes a dynam- Modernity, Neuzeit, means, in sum, that the future of the new
ic and historical force in its own right’. Time is, in other words, can be a new future, and the past is a new past, configured by a
the historicity of the new future.16 Contrasted to its Eurochris- future-facing anthropogenic history-making, by action. To adapt
tian organization up to the mid-eighteenth century, the time of Arendt’s title, modernity is the ‘human conditioned’. The cogent
anthropogenic history is itself a new time (neue Zeit in German). inauguration and maintenance of modernity requires coherent
New, because it mandates the anthropogenic new future and also integration of these terms—the time of open futurity, the pres-

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ent, action, historicity—in a logic of anthropogenic history. That the neo-avant-garde institutionalizes the avant-garde as
logic and its supplanting by contemporaneity is demonstrated art and this negates genuinely avant-gardist intentions. …
with particular clarity by the avant-gardism of art declared to be Neo-avant-gardist art is autonomous art in the full sense
‘modern’ in the North Atlantic region from the late-eighteenth of the term, which means that it negates the avant-gardist
century on, just as the term modernity came to prevail as the intention of returning art to the praxis of life.
defining name for the epoch defined by anthropogenic history.
Peter Bürger’s mid-1970s criticism of Theodor Adorno’s staunch That is, the metahistorical maintenance of ‘the new’ configuring
advocacy of modernity crystallizes the key issues here.22 Bürg- avant-garde strategies led to the reversal and negation of its his-
er contests Adorno’s characterization of art in general through torically situated aims, recuperating the artistic autonomy it dis-
Modernism, itself defined on the basis of the category of the new claims in the name of avant-gardism. And for Bürger this reversal
against tradition. That is, Adorno specifies Modernism to be the is the perverse success of the avant-garde:
counter-traditionalism of modernity vectored through aesthetics;
a counter-traditionalism that Koselleck for his part identifies as a the procedures invented by the avant-garde with anti-artis-
consequence of the inauguration of modernity qua anthropogen- tic intent are being used for artistic ends. This must not
ic history. Art is modern for Adorno in that ‘the authority of the be judged a ‘betrayal’ of the aims of the avant-garde move-
new [is] historically inevitable’ for it.23 Bürger highlights that the ments … but the result of a historical process [wherein] the
new here does not mean new styles, techniques, media, and other attack [made] art recognizable as an institution and also
various innovations that in fact comprise the history of artistic revealed its (relative) inefficacy in bourgeois society as its
development, but the futural new of art. Furthermore, following principle.
Marxist doctrine characterizing ‘essentially non-traditionalist
societies’ as ‘bourgeois’, Modernism ‘ratifies the bourgeois prin- That is, the neo-avant-garde demonstrates the truth of art in bour-
ciple in art’. geois society: that art is in any case an autonomous institution.
That the artistic avant-garde is exemplarily Modernist is And this is the lesson Bürger draws against Adorno’s theory of
a truism, but Bürger’s criticism elucidates two features in the Modernism, which will prove instructive for the Koselleckian
historical development of Modernism that serve to demonstrate definition of modernity as an anthropogenic history set to a new
how, despite its definition by the new future to come, the logic of future. For Bürger, Adorno confounds the ‘historically unique
modernity is terminal, and also how its terminal state is config- break with tradition that is defined by the historical avant-garde
ured. Adorno’s own criticism of aesthetics is premised on art’s movements’ with ‘the developmental principle of modern art as
constitutive autonomy in bourgeois societies. Avant-garde art such’. The latter is a ‘category of the new’ that Adorno ‘fails to
attacking art’s bourgeois institutionalization must then seek to properly historicise’.26 That is, Adorno mistakes the historical
abolish artistic autonomy, ‘to do away with art as a sphere that is emergence of the avant-garde to be the transcendental principle
separate from the praxis of life’.24 Yet, insofar as the overcoming of modern art. And it is this category mistake of basing histori-
of bourgeois institutionalization has become the Modernist his- cally situated artistic ambitions on the metahistorical and empty
tory of art as a history driven by and for the new, the continued category of the new—effectively positing modernity as a formal
corrosion of the autonomy of art by the avant-garde serves to category (of the new as a void or an empty signifier)—that leads to
reproduce that modern institutionalization. As Bürger remarks, the reversal of the aims of modern art, from the abolition of its au-
‘the procedures invented by the avant-garde with anti-artistic in- tonomy (the avant-garde) to its vindication (the neo-avant-garde).
tent are being used for artistic ends’, not least the entrenchment Bürger validates the historical avant-garde by delimiting
of the extant institution of artistic autonomy.25 Bürger identifies the historically specific necessity of its newness, adequate then to
this reversal or inversion of the ‘intention’ of the avant-garde to the task of negating art’s bourgeois condition for a period. But it is
be the ‘neo-avant-garde’: his elaboration of the consequences of Adorno’s generalization of

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the new as principle of modern art that, first, correctly forecasts Posthistory
the subsequent development of art since the 1970s—its transmuta- Adorno’s mistake as Bürger identifies it cannot however be dis-
tion into contemporary art (CA)—and, second, gives the instruc- missed as a category error or particularized as the limitation of
tive example for the consequences of modernity as anthropic his- his philosophical system. If, following Koselleck, modernity is the
tory—its transmutation into contemporaneity. These conclusions epoch of the constant inauguration of anthropogenic history in a
follow from Bürger’s primary complaint that Adorno’s mistaken time that mandates the new as a formal and general category, the
definition of modern art means that any such determination Modernism of the avant-garde as Adorno determines it is the art
of the new ‘provides no criteria for distinguishing between fad- adequate to modernity. Bürger’s criticism of the neo-avant-garde’s
dish (arbitrary) and historically necessary newness’. As a formal reversing into the perpetuation of commodity societies indexes
metahistorical premise, the historical significance of any particu- through art the closing of the epoch of modernity, which afford-
lar instance of newness cannot be apprehended. Consequently, ed the freedom and autonomy of action qua anthropogenically
Adorno’s only recourse for determining the category of the new initiated futurity. That epoch is concluded by being continued
is the paradigm of commodity society, which is perpetuated by in modified form as contemporaneity, a new epoch subsequent
the consumer good. What is new in and for art is then indistinct to modernity whose characteristics are in part now outlined by
from another option in the common dimension of commodity ex- generalizing the case of art’s conversion from modernism. This
change, an item of consumption organized by difference rather characterization leads to the determination of the contemporary
than historical necessity. Consequently, as a distinct postmodern formation of time-sequencing and his-
tory together, for which the future is not the condition of history
through the avant-garde movements … the historical suc- but is instead ‘cancelled’. But it also mandates the critique of that
cession of techniques and styles has been transformed into now standard determination of postmodernity to be a modernist
a simultaneity of the radically disparate [Gleichzeitigkeit misdiagnosis of how the epoch consequent to modernity in fact
des radikal Verschiedenen]. The consequence is that no configures time and historicity.
movement in the arts today can legitimately claim to be The distinction between contemporaneity and modernity
historically more advanced as art than any other. as Koselleck derives it (and Adorno assumes with him) can be
demonstrated by directly comparing the transformation of ‘the
The ‘simultaneity of the radically disparate’ means that the neo- historical succession of techniques and styles … into a simulta-
avant-garde, perpetuating a schematic avant-gardism, spells the neity [Gleichzeitigkeit] of the radically disparate’, which defines
end to any notion of artistic progress. A history of artistic de- contemporaneity in art, to simultaneity in modernity as it is iden-
velopment is replaced by the simultaneity of inchoate new art tified by Koselleck. Recall that for Koselleck time in modernity
indistinct from expanding commodity markets. The inchoate is distinct from the historical equivalence between one time and
simultaneity and commodity-equivalence of an art that endorses another set by the horizon of expectation of Eurochristian escha-
its social autonomy is a concise summary of the sociohistorical tology. Modernity orders history according to an anthropogenic
development of CA subsequent to Bürger’s identification of the horizon of expectation in time alone. That time ordering is not
neo-avant-garde. For Peter Osborne, such a simultaneity com- only clearly sequential—the past, then the present, then the fu-
prises the contemporaneity of contemporary art.27 While the ture—but also a prioritization of the new over the extant or past
conversion of the new from a historically situated criterion to an historical conditions. The received name for such a historicizing
empty category means that CA is distinct from modern art, it is time-ordering, reiterated by Koselleck, is development: ‘From the
for that reason also the continuation of the logics and historicity seventeenth century on, historical experience was increasingly or-
of modern art, be they over-extended and now set against the dered by the hierarchy produced through a consideration of the
latter (and this holds for Adorno’s own theorization of aesthetic best existing constitution or the state of scientific, technical, or
theory too).28 economic development [Entwicklung]’.29

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This developmental ordering intrinsic to modernity is key Despite its commonality across both Koselleck’s and Bürger’s
to its geohistorical expansion. Because the anthropogenic history theorizations, the use of ‘contemporaneity [Gleichzeitigkeit]’ to
defining modernity is intrinsically and necessarily a world history, signify the presentation of otherwise disparate particulars in an
modern societies mandate themselves to calibrate others accord- overarching configuration should not however lead to their se-
ing to their own developmental hierarchy: mantic identification. The two uses of contemporaneity are dis-
tinct in that while disparate cultures are calibrated in modernity
The geographical opening up of the globe brought to light by a ‘chronologically uniform time’ according to a ‘progressive
various but coexisting cultural levels which were, through construction of world history’—as Koselleck specifies and Adorno
the process of synchronous comparison, then ordered di- stipulates for Modernism in general and the avant-garde in par-
achronically. … Comparisons promoted the emergence in ticular—Bürger contends that the simultaneity of ‘radically dispa-
experience of a world history, which was increasingly inter- rate’ art movements characteristic of the neo-avant-garde is such
preted in terms of progress.30 that none can ‘legitimately claim to be historically more advanced
as art than any other’.32 Distinct to modernity, the contemporane-
The comparison of cultures according to a specifically Euromod- ity of the neo-avant-garde is progress-less, a proliferation of new
ern hierarchization of historical development sanctions the rac- art absent of development.
ism of North Atlantic modernity, as Koselleck highlights in the Put otherwise, the contemporaneity of the radically dispa-
ellipsis of the preceding quote: ‘Looking from civilized Europe rate characterizing the neo-avant-garde is distinct from Koselleck-
to a barbaric America was a glance backward.’ Based on the di- ian modernity in that the proliferation of new art in the neo-avant-
achronic ordering of geospatial distinct cultures according to an garde is not the enactment of an anthropogenic history organized
integrating time-line of historical development, Euromodern rac- by a future—it is not action in the modern (Arendtian) sense—but
ism has been the structuring organization entitling extraction and rather the proliferation of new art simultaneous and disparate to
subjugation by the self-mandated actors of progress. what is, has been, and will be. In this logic of the update, art is
In its historical composition, the ‘fundamental experience then only ever current (Zeitgenössische, which is the German term
of progress’ structuring Euromodernity requires the convening of for what in English is the ‘contemporary’ of contemporary art).
diverse cultures that are disparate to one another, of ‘non-con- With regard to the characteristically Euromodern composition of
temporaneities [Ungleichzeitigen] that exist at a chronologically history identified by Koselleck, and as the broad metastable trans-
uniform [gleicher] time’. That is, Euromodern geoterritorial ex- formational dynamic of CA demonstrates, the contemporaneity
pansion convenes otherwise heterogeneous and unconnected cul- of CA is then posthistorical and, in this nontrivial sense, therefore
tures as ‘non-contemporaries’ in modernity by situating them in postmodern.33
the common time of progress, which is the unified time defined Posthistory does not mean that there is nothing new,
by anthropogenic history that mandates a new future. Koselleck different, singular, no further simultaneous disparities. On the
calls it the time of contemporaneity: contrary: the proliferation CA validates and perpetuates is what
Koselleck calls the horizon of experience—memory, lived expe-
The contemporaneity of the noncontemporaneous [Gleich- rience, the archive, the present—and each new experience of art
zeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen], initially a result of overseas adds to and embellishes experience as a whole. Posthistory desig-
expansion, became a basic framework for the progressive nates the contemporaneity of additive yet progress-less anthropo-
construction of a world history increasingly unified since genic experience. Contrary then to the future-conditioned time
the eighteenth century. Toward the end of that century, the of modern historicity, the proliferation of concurrent pasts, pre-
collective singular ‘progress’ was coined in the German lan- sents, and futures are sequenced in a contiguous and seamless ex-
guage, opening up all domains of life with questions of ‘ear- perience, happening before or after one another as alterations of
lier than’, or ‘later than’, not just ‘before’ and ‘after’.31 contemporaneity. The ordered distinction of the time sequence is

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corroded in favour of their simultaneity. And this vitiation of the fied as the defuturing of the new, the BFJ thesis however requires
time order of modernity means not only the dehistoricization of amendment. Specifically, as the dehistoricity of modernity, con-
the new, but also the dehistoricity of time. temporaneity does refer to the ‘direction of time’: contemporane-
ity vitiates time qua historicity. Furthermore, contemporaneity is
Defuturity the supplanting of the horizon of expectation by the adventure
Incorporating the horizon of expectation into the horizon of ex- of new experience, and the dehistoricity of time does not wholly
perience, contemporaneity entails the destruction of the former abolish a time sequence but rather rebases it as a simultaneous
in its modern sense. Progress-less, defuturing both the present disparity of befores and afters in a posthistorical metastable expe-
and the new (even as a formal category), the posthistory of con- rience. There is only a meantime: duration. The ‘deflation of ex-
temporaneity is comprehensively postmodern, and terminally so. pectations’ marking contemporaneity is not then the eradication
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Mark Fisher both characterize the pe- of modernity but rather its depletion. Two corollaries:
riod since the early-twenty-first century along these lines, as an (i) Taking up Koselleck’s terms, such a depleted modernity
epoch of posthistorical contemporaneity. For Berardi, it is a senti- happens ‘after’ modernity—or there was a modernity ‘before’ it—
mental-phenomenological existential distortion by the neoliberal and modernity is for that reason part of contemporary experience.
formation of labour and economy, which undoes the political pos- Put otherwise, contemporaneity is not modern but modernity is
sibility of the transformative future; for Fisher, these conditions still contemporary. Modernity is not then earlier than the contem-
are firstly socio-culturally implemented by the neoliberalization porary, an irrecuperable past of the contemporary as a societal
of institutions, including digital reproduction technologies: composition, but rather only a part of its present that may be in-
congruous to other aspects of the contemporary but is not thereby
Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi refers to ‘the slow cancellation of the overcome and cannot overcome it.
future [which] got underway in the 1970s and 1980s’. ‘But (ii) The dehistoricity of the past, present, and future in
when I say “future” [he elaborates] I am not referring to contemporaneity is a symmetrical secular obverse to the Euro-
the direction of time. I am thinking, rather, of the psycho- christian eschatology revoked by modernity. Recall that the ter-
logical perception, … the cultural expectations that were minal transhistorical scheme of Eurochristian eschatology preset
fabricated during the long period of modern civilization the terms and conclusion of all experience and expectation such
… shaped in the conceptual frameworks of an ever-pro- that ‘nothing fundamentally new would arise’. The dehistoricity
gressing development.’ The slow cancellation of the future defining contemporaneity replicates that transhistorical deter-
has been accompanied by a deflation of expectations. … mination, yet it amplifies the renewal of a contiguous experience
The very distinction between past and present is breaking with nothing fundamentally new arising in its stead. Moreover,
down. In 1981, the 1960s seemed much further away than these two dehistoricizations on either side of modernity are sym-
they do today. Since then, cultural time has folded back on metrical inversions of one another: while Eurochristian eschatol-
itself, and the impression of linear development has given ogy bases present experience on the given horizon of expectation
way to a strange simultaneity.34 of the Last Judgement—a future that is not new but guaranteed
and known in premodern Eurochristianity—contemporaneity on
Which is to say: contemporaneity, extended now beyond its der- the other hand rebases expectation on the basis of a now present
ivation in CA to the entirety of the sociocultural composition, experience.
which can then be called contemporary societies. Both of these transhistorical formations propose a termi-
Taking into account Frederic Jameson’s contribution nal extrahistorical organization of history, yet distinctly so: for
to this determination of postmodernity (elaborated below), the Eurochristian eschatology that ahistorical terminus is the divine
‘slow cancellation of the future’ can be called the Berardi–Fisher– order of the Last Judgment; for contemporaneity, as the BFJ the-
Jameson (BFJ) thesis of posthistorical contemporaneity. Identi- sis highlights, the posthistorical terminus is the mutable present

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itself—or, to complete the symmetry with Eurochristian eschatol- continuation of experience. These various eschatons are the
ogy, its extinction. Elaborating these two terminations of contem- price of the postcontemporary qua modernity redux.
poraneity in turn demonstrates how, as for the neo-avant-garde Jameson’s appeal to historicity as an exit strategy from
with respect to the bourgeois condition of art, the BFJ critique of contemporaneity is a typically modernist recourse. As noted,
contemporaneity reverses into and promulgates the condition it however, modernity is anyway accommodated within contempo-
claims to repudiate. The two terminations are: rary as another of its disparate moments. Among other utopias,
– The terminal present. Fisher’s thesis of capitalist realism an- then, contemporaneity dictates that the modernity of the BFJ the-
nounces the socioeconomic rendition of terminal contemporane- sis, as a call for a new future of postcapitalism, is itself depleted;
ity: ‘The widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only yet another future fiction constrained by a disparate posthistor-
viable political and economic system, but also that it is now im- ical contemporaneity. Accordingly, the BFJ thesis does not just
possible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.’35 This impos- diagnose the contemporary as a condition and structure of dehis-
sibility is, as Jameson contends, the elimination of a horizon of toricity; it also rehearses and is depleted by the contemporaneity
expectation that is not an extension of present experience, which that it aims to revoke. A modernist critique of contemporaneity,
experience is then the terminal condition of all futurity. It is the the BFJ thesis reprises the neo-avant-garde’s signature reversal of
absenting of anthropogenic history, of a historicity directed to a Modernism, scaled up from the specific institution of art’s auton-
new future.36 The ‘cancellation’ of a new future different to the omy in bourgeois societies to the generality of contemporaneity
present configures an end-time of present, past, and future in configured by the socioeconomic totality of capitalism.39
the contiguity of variation of experience, without the finality of
Eurochristian eschatology; the ceaseless contemporaneity of an Risk
endless-meantime. Together, modernity and contemporaneity can then be retrospec-
– The extinction of the present. Yet eschatological finality does tively identified as the history (Historie) of the emergence and de-
return to this composition of contemporaneity—with the BFJ pletion of anthropogenic historicity in time according to a matrix
critique itself. The slogan that ‘it is easier to imagine the end set by Eurochristian eschatology, which is their common precur-
of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism’, attrib- sor. It is the history of the migration of the ‘extrahistorical’ deter-
uted to Jameson, implicitly contends that contemporaneity can mination of time from the divine to depleted new experiences of
be exited or overcome, but only by the end of either capitalism the posthistorical present, the termination of their common his-
or the world (through eco-catastrophe, for example).37 While the tory in the anthropic mundane. Having identified this matrix of
imagining of the end of the world entrenches the impassability secularized Eurochristian eschatology, the concluding argument
of capitalism, the end of capitalism represents the utopian possi- of this chapter is that it is however in fact supplanted by another
bility of the surpassing of the contemporary. Jameson: ‘For the postmodern configuration, one misrecognized by the identifica-
moment and in our current historical situation, a sense of his- tion of contemporaneity and its BFJ critique. What is then theo-
tory can only be reawakened by a Utopian vision lying beyond retically available is a composition of the future distinct from that
the horizon of our current globalized system, which appears too which has prevailed over its history since the dominance of Eu-
complex for representation in thought.’38 Only a radically new rochristianity in the North Atlantic and Euromodernity as world
future such as the end of the world or the end of capitalism can history, a new future for the future.
overcome the current condition. Jameson contends that such a The premise for the counterpostmodernity proposed here
‘reawakening’ would be a ‘genuine historicity’ which, with Ko- is the development in the scales of economy, organization and
selleck, would define it to be a modernity. What is then more logistics adequate to globalization, including the advance of
significant than the end of the world is that the BFJ thesis posit technical and symbolic intermediation, and the coordination of
such terminations—of the planet, capitalism, and other condi- increasingly complex social, economic, and legal-regulatory or-
tions—as transformed futures distinct from the present and the ganization. These developments of large-scale integrated complex

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societies (LaSICS), as they are designated here in their generali- the horizon of experience. That is, LaSICS supplant the depleted
ty, are the material, symbolic, and infrastructural configurations time structure of ‘before’ and ‘after’ characteristic of contempora-
wrought by the geo-economic expansion of Euromodernity ini- neity with the operational ‘earlier than’ and ‘later than’ which are
tially by colonialism, and then by a planetary capitalism that has intrinsic to their functional composition. Only that in this config-
to date also been concentrated in the North Atlantic. uration the future is operationally, structurally, and systemically
That development has been intensified since the 1990s by ‘earlier than’ the present. In its logic and time ordering, the future
ubiquitous digital computation, yet, as a historico-semantically is the past, and this reorganizes what the future can be. Equally,
integrated process, it is mandated by the modernity identified by the present is ‘later than’ the future, the future of the future.
Koselleck: the result of an anthropogenic history integrated as The complex configuration wherein the future transforms
world history. But whereas modernity is structured by a horizon of the present and the future even before the present has happened,
expectation, a new future to come that is distinct from the pres- and the present is the occasion of an unknown future, is the spec-
ent, what is by comparison distinct to LaSICS is that the futurity ulative time-complex (STC).41 A reordering of the time sequence,
of the new is their functional condition, the operational premise the STC maintains the modernity of the irreducibility of the future
for their technical, material, and symbolic organization and devel- to the present and the past, countermanding the depletion of time
opment. This identification of the time ordering of LaSICS iden- ordering defining contemporaneity. Yet it also countermands the
tifies, for example, the rapid expansion of credit as the basis for eschatological structure of modernity, for which the new future is
economic and monetary operation since the deregulation of finan- an absent yet known eschaton. The STC is the schematic configu-
cial institutions in the 1980s: while credit has always calculated a ration of the unknown future as the operational prior condition of
loan on the basis of the future income that can be made from it to the present configured by LaSICS.
accrue repayment with interest, financialization sets that premise Call the present that internalizes futurity as its intrinsic ma-
as the basis for economic expansion at all scales.40 Equally, trans- terial-symbolic-systemic premise the speculative present. Specu-
national infrastructures of insurance, health, energy, and agricul- lative, in part because the STC intensively and extensively exac-
ture (all of which are intensively corporatized) are also all typical erbates the futural historicity defining modernity, but without the
of LaSICS, as they are of other basics of social provision such security of its semantic ordering. That is, the operational premise
as housing, social welfare, managing climate change, long logis- of the uncertain future at once stipulates and undermines the task
tics chains, and the anticipatory models governing security and of anthropogenic history identified by Koselleck as ‘social and
military configurations. These and other such components of the political planes for planful activity that points to the future’. That
dynamic and transformative structuring of LaSICS are comprised futural historicity is intrinsic to the speculative present, its basis,
of anticipations of the future not as a horizon of expectation but which is also the modification of modern futurity with regard to
rather as the present and actual premise of their current technical, the intensive and extensive dimensions of the present:
economic, social, and symbolic operations. – Intensive futurity. Migrating from a horizonal ordering of an-
The summary point here is that the unknown future—which thropogenic history to the intrinsic operational premise of La-
may or may not be new—is the precondition of the present in La- SICS, time is intrinsically comprised by its futural historicity.
SICS, their defining feature. And the principal theoretical point Consequently, the historicity of the unifying eschaton of the new
is that the future as it is operationalized and manifest in LaSICS future defining modernity as a cogent task dis-integrates. There
is then not the eschaton of a new future to come, as it is for mo- is instead the multiplicity of specific speculative mobilizations
dernity, but a material-symbolic precondition for the calculation of futures comprising each present. Each present time of the
of the unknown future, a speculative composition of the present. STC is then internally comprised of the proliferation of multiple,
And contrasted to the equivalences of past, present, and future dis-integrative historicities. Calling the socially and systemical-
in a continuity of new experiences configuring contemporaneity, ly ingrained futural historicity of time in the STC ultrahistoricity
LaSICS operationalize the future as unknown and distinct from serves to demarcate it from its modern precursor.

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– Extensive futurity. The operational condition of the speculative result will lead to the concluding identification of the conditions
present is the inherent uncertainty of the future. The resulting for a politics and an art adequate to the STC, which is also the
necessary intrinsic limitation and constraint on extrapolations revocation of contemporaneity, and the recomposition of what
into the future by calculation or planning means that actions and politics and art must then be.
designs made in the speculative present are at best a risk, and
such risks proliferate with the dis-integration of the new future. Contracontemporary
Moreover, risk is not only the premise of the speculative present; Risk societies are those for which the new future that defines an-
it is also instantiated again and recomposed with each instantia- thropogenic history—the plan—is itself susceptible to future con-
tion of the STC. Comprised by risk and its proliferation, LaSICS tingencies that can partly be accounted for (by risk management)
are but an extension of what Ulrich Beck and others have since but also contingencies that can not. The ultrahistoricity of the
the mid-1980s called risk societies—societies for which the conse- speculative present vitiates the secular-eschatological conditions
quences of knowledge and action are constitutively incomplete at of modernity, including anthropogenic history, and the futural
the point they are drawn up.42 historicity of the speculative present is instead itself contingent in
Decisions taken at any given present in risk societies are time. The speculative present is then contramodern. The future is
vulnerable to eventualities that can only be partially planned. Such only the premise for uncertainty in the present. Which is not to
limitations are for Beck imposed by empirical and anthropological proscribe the possibility of the contentful plan or anthropogenic
constraints: risks are not only the unknown consequences of pres- history. To the contrary, the STC mandates that the future can be
ent action but are also systemic, integrated and open-ended. Beck reset. But if the risk is too great, any definitive new future is unten-
identifies three concomitant dimensions of such a ‘delocalization’: able. In exacerbating the historical dynamic of time qua historici-
ty via the systemic social integration comprising LaSICS, the risk
a) spatial: the new risks (e.g. climate change) are spreading composition of the STC is definitively separated from modernity.
over national borders, and even over continents; Yet, in that LaSICS are themselves a result of the comprehensive
b) temporal: the new risks have a long latency period (e.g. world history and its development mandated by modernity, risk
nuclear waste), so that their future effects cannot be relia- societies are definitively postmodern.44
bly determined and restricted; moreover, knowledge and Equally, however, the priority in the STC of a delocalized
non-knowing are changing so that the question of who is futurity unknown to experience means that modernity as it is de-
affected is itself temporally open and remains disputed; fined by the horizon of expectation is supplanted for the specu-
c) social: since the new risks are the result of complex pro- lative present not by the horizon of experience, as it is for con-
cesses involving long chains of effects, their causes and ef- temporaneity, but by its intrinsic and contingent time historicity.
fects cannot be determined with sufficient precision (e.g. That is, though the scrambling of the standard time sequence of
financial crises).43 past, present, and future is common to both contemporaneity and
the STC, the former is characterized by the depletion of time-or-
In one sense, the theory of risk societies makes the trivial point dering in favour of the contiguity of experience, while the ultra-
that, as a futural anthropogenic history, modernity is intrinsi- historicity of the STC maintains but reverses the time distinction
cally subject to future contingencies, the actuality of which are of modernity, exacerbating rather than depleting the futurity of
unknown at the time of action. This triviality does however in- the present. The postmodernity of the speculative present is then
dicate the significant result that risk resets the futural historicity contracontemporary as well as countermodern, as are the LaSICS
of time from its modern configuration, definitively separating the operationalized on this premise.
time-historicity of the STC away from the secular composition of Being both countermodern and countercontemporary, the
Eurochristian eschatology, which matrix configures the moder- operational risk characteristic of the speculative present corre-
nity of which the STC is the historical result. Elaboration of this sponds to neither subvariant of secularized eschatology. The STC

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268 269
maintains and extends the futural historicity inaugurating moder- because it is each time unique, a uniqueness conferred to each
nity, of the modern composition of the new and of futures, but human at birth; but unexpectedness is intrinsic to the speculative
now wholly detached from residual Eurochristian configuration, present characteristic of LaSICS, for which the uncertainty of the
mandating instead the configuration of futures that are compre- consequences of actions are configured as risks. Comprised by
hensively global. The historicity of the speculative present exacer- and subordinated to the ultrahistoricty of the speculative present
bates its modern dynamic but at delocalized scales and with no as risk is, human uniqueness is unnecessary to the composition of
set future.45 To deploy Jean-François Lyotard’s terms, the ‘grand unexpected consequences.
narrative’ characteristic of modernity is not only supplemented – Complexity: for Arendt action is unpredictable because its
by any number of calculative cautions against contingencies, but meaning is not disclosed until its subsequent account; yet if the
history-making according to that plan is itself obfuscated by delo- unknown future precedes the present in the STC, and if the future
calized risk and the contingent and provisional ‘small narratives’ that results from any act is in fact a new composition of risks,
of its administration. then there cannot be a determinate culmination or completable
Which is to reiterate that risk societies and the speculative sequence for any act, nor any completed meaning. Ultrahistorici-
present are large-scale, integrated, complex—and futural. The post- ty means instead that the recording of history is nonterminal, and
modernity of the STC is not then the ‘cancellation of the future’, that unpredictability precedes action as its premise.
as the BFJ thesis contends, but the reverse-ordering of the time-se- That is, each of Arendt’s anthropogenic determinations of
quence of modernity’s secular eschatology. More precisely, while action is inadequate to the contramodernity of the STC. Over-
risk-postmodernity vitiates the commanding future organizing all, her theory of politics is insufficient to the speculative present.
modernity, that ‘cancellation’ is not because of the absenting or More generally, the surfeit of the future in risk societies means
withdrawal of futurity, as per the BFJ thesis, but instead because of that anthropogenic action is an insufficient and inadequate basis
a contracontemporary surfeit of futurity. Modernity is exacerbated for forging the future. Assuming the residual validity of moder-
such that it is usurped by the counter-postmodernity of the STC. nity as its theoretical and political scheme, the BFJ thesis of the
That is, theorized outside of the logic of the BFJ thesis, the future cancellation of the future misidentifies that the future is forged ac-
is ‘cancelled’ not because it is absented or withdrawn but because cording to a speculative present whose futurity erodes the ultima-
there is too much futurity, too much risk, to secure a future—an- cy of anthropogenic history. To be clear: action cannot overcome
thropogenic history qua action—over any other. The futural plan risk in the comprehensive postmodernity of LaSICS because risk
typical of the modern task of anthropogenic history loses its way. comprises the preconditions and consequences of action. Rather,
Another plan will always be needed because no plan is adequate. forging a future in the speculative present by action first requires
Indexed to a specifically anthropogenic condition alone, a delimitation of the futurity of the speculative present, which
as Arendt stipulates, the surfeit of the future must however be means (i) the constraining of risk, and also (ii) the redetermi-
revoked. Recall that modernity is defined by the future-making of nation of action itself distinct from its modern anthropogenic
anthropogenic history, which condition for the new is a doctrine determination. Elaborating these requirements in turn provides
of action, and that Arendt incarnates this condition for each hu- the concluding derivation of a contracontemporary politics—the
man. The delocalization of risk societies however supplants this setting of the future of the future—and of an art adequate to the
anthropogenic condition and, with it, Arendt’s prioritization of delocalized speculative present comprising LaSICS.
politics as anthropogenic futurity. Specifically: – Risk Constraint. If the making of a specific future is not to be
– Scale: as Beck contends, the intermediation of LaSICS mean ‘cancelled’ by the surfeit of the future, the risk composition of
that decisions and consequences are delocalized, which is to say the speculative present must be constrained. Such constraints
greater than the capacity of any Arendtian ‘space of appearances’ can include various kinds of security, insurance, social provi-
of direct interpersonal engagement.46 sion, and capital; or, on the other hand, by regressions such as
– Integration: action for Arendt leads to the new, the unexpected, the reimposition of linear calibrations of progress or eschaton,

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270 271
or the highly bounded and stabilized semantic structures and freedom of anthropogenic history-making, and the result being
consequent social organizing effects of traditionalisms. The the- the consolidation and reinforcement of the ‘bourgeois institution’
oretical generalization of these measures is that constraining or of artistic autonomy qua CA. Two requirements for such a com-
abating risk in order to direct a course of action—to initiate a prehensively sociogenic art highlight its distinction from art since
future—presumes a selection of risk, contingent on the specif- the avant-garde. First, contrasted to an art that is in each instance
ics of the speculative present in each instance and the specific an individuated opening of meaning without finality—typical of
future to be set. Yet, all such constraints are themselves only the avant-garde artwork in Modernism as it is when resituated
incomplete and uncertain in the STC, only partly knowable in to the open-ended interpretive task of the addressee in CA—‘the
their consequences and delocalized effects. The constraints to new’ of an art adequate to the speculative present is configured
risk are themselves risks. Moreover, the selection of what risks not by the freedoms demonstrated by such semantic indetermina-
are to be abated is to select various possible future outcomes cy but instead by its specification of a future. And such a specifica-
over others, a provisional—and only ever provisional setting—of tion is in each case a historico-systemically situated constraining
the future of the future. And that is a politics, one that is prior of risk intrinsic to the speculative present. ‘Historico-systemically
to anthropogenic action. situated’ here rephrases that the speculative present is comprised
– Action redux. Because the risk intrinsic to the STC is not unique- sociogenically; that specifying a future by constraining risk is a
ly a consequence of individual actions but a situated composition- sociogenic operation. Second, then, the art adequate to the risk
al requirement of LaSICS, the constraining of risk is a systemic composition of LaSICS is a situated component in the socially
condition to provide the social capacity to enact the future—‘so- integrated composition of the speculative present and its risk. So,
cial’ here meaning the configuration of LaSICS, not the interper- comprised, art’s autonomy is abrogated.
sonal engagement in a space of appearances. To be clear: it is not Two consequences follow, which, though contradictory
that anthropogenic action and interventions are eliminated in La- in Modernism, are in fact aspects of the one requirement for an
SICS. Rather that, configured by the STC, anthropogenic action art adequate to the speculative present: (i) the ambition of the
is configured by the delocalized socius of LaSICS. That socius is avant-garde according to Bürger, to rescind art’s bourgeois institu-
definitionally more expansive and at scales of systemic integration tional autonomy from the social totality, is realized—but not as an
and interconnection greater than individual or socially segmented artistic or political-critical imperative motivating the avant-garde.
anthropogenic capacity. On the contrary, artistic avant-gardism is completed and supplant-
That is, LaSICS supplant the anthropogenesis of history ed because art is one component institution of risk constraint in
defining modernity, including action and art, with a sociogenic the sociogenic specification of a future in the speculative present.
enacting of the future defined by the irreducible consequences of Accordingly, (ii) the art adequate to the speculative present has no
that modernity. Action, because it is not the ‘human condition’ or priority or privilege as an institutional format for the future of the
history (Historie) or the horizon of experience that provides the new. Configured by the speculative present, the criticism Bürger
basis for action in the speculative present of LaSICS, or of what its makes of Adorno’s commodity paradigm for the future of the new
capacity of the new is, but instead a meta-anthropic—or, abbrevi- of art is reversed: the future of the new that was once the prerog-
ated, metanthropic—affordance of LaSICS.47 To reiterate: the met- ative of art since the avant-garde is instead a ubiquitous feature
anthropic condition of action does not eliminate anthropogenic of LaSICS, including but not limited to commodities. Art is then
history but encompasses it and deprioritizes it as a provisional one among other component aspects in an economy of risk con-
semantic constraint to risk, but a constraint which, for that rea- straint in LaSICS.48 Conversely, while defending art’s autonomy
son, comprises further sociogenic risks. And that deprioritization qua Modernism or CA from the comprehensively sociogenic com-
stipulates the resetting of art too. In particular, the sociogenic en- position of the speculative present also constrains the more gener-
acting of the future supplants both the premise and the results of al and systemic sociogenic risk it is imbricated in—by insisting for
art since the avant-garde; the premise being the historico-political example on its historical formats of individuated, personalized,

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272 273
and subjective presentation and interpretation—such constraints
limit risk by repudiating all but microscale operations. For that
very reason, however, such art cannot attain the multi-scalar op-
erability or situate the sociogenic specificity of its risk constraint
in the surfeit of futurity. The defence of art since the avant-garde
cannot then configure one future over another. And without the
sociogenic constraint of risk, such art is limited to the prolifer-
ation of simultaneous disparate semanticizations, which is the
defuturity of CA.
As cases of anthropogenic history, variants of the uniquely
human capability to enact a new future, both art since modernity
and action as Arendt proposes it are supplanted by the risk poli-
tics of the metanthropic-sociogenic speculative present. If, then,
they are to continue to meet the task of setting a future, both art
and politics have to be reset by the risk politics of delimiting the
surfeit of futurity so as to set a future. And while the sociogen-
ic resetting of the conditions of anthropogenic history has been
somewhat adopted by various generalizations of anthropogenic
incarnation as condition of action and semanticization—such as
(but not limited to) posthumanism, transhumanism, antihuman-
ism and inhumanism—these are but conversions of the historical
modernity of development, particular subordinate components
of the sociogenic generality of risk-politics enabling action in the
speculative present. Unconstrained from these residual anthropo-
genic determinations, metanthropic development is instead the
uncertain future of sociogenic contingencies, which means the
uncertainty of development distinct from modernity. That post-
modernity, initiated by LaSICS, operationalized qua the STC, is
a global historical development distinct not just from Euromoder-
nity but moreover from any anthropogenic future; a future that is
unpredictable because it can have no semanticizing account, no
adequate Historie. A development comprised instead by a future
in the future.

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274 275
Notes horizon of expectation—a horizon 22 P
 eter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, 34 M ark Fisher, The Ghosts of My Life:
marked in this case by the inhuman trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis, Writings on Depression, Hauntology and
1  he distinction between the present
T as the ratiogenic transformation of MN: Minnesota University Press, Lost Futures (Alresford: Zero Books,
future—the future for the present—and intelligence currently vectored 1984 [German: 19802 (19741)]). 2014), pp. 7–8, ellipses added. Fisher
the future present—the present that through the human as its historical 23 Ibid., p. 29, translation modified to cites Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, After the
is in the future—is made in Elena basis but to be freed from it—see accord with Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Future, trans. Arianna Bove et al.
Esposito, The Future of Futures: Time Reza Negarestani, ‘The Labor of Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011),
of Money in Financing and Society the Inhuman’, in #accelerate: The (London: Continuum, 2002 [German: pp. 18–19. Fisher’s characterization
(Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011 Accelerationist Reader, ed. Robin 1970]), p. 21. of the folding back of (pop) cultural
[Italian: 2009]), 126ff. Mackay and Armen Avanessian 24 Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, p. 53. time relies on Simon Reynolds,
2 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Falmouth: Urbanomic Press; Berlin: 25 Unless otherwise noted, all citations in Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction
(Second Edition) (Chicago: University Merve, 2014), pp. 427–466. this section are from Bürger, Theory of to its Own Past (New York: Faber and
of Chicago Press, 1998 [1958]), 11 Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 196. the Avant-Garde, pp. 57–63. Faber, 2011). For William Gibson,
pp. 177–178. 12 Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 232; syntax 26 Ibid., p. 60–61, syntax modified. calling on ‘whatever relevant kinds
3 A rendt, Human Condition, p. 198. rearranged. 27 Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at of historical literacy, and fluency in
4 Ibid., pp. 176–177. 13 The supplanting of Eurochristian All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art recombinance’ is an ‘atemporality’
5 Ibid., pp. 191–192. eschatology by anthropogenic history (London: Verso, 2013), Ch. 1; The (@GreatDismal, Twitter, 25 May 2009
6 Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On is explicitly dramatized a century or Postconceptual Condition (London: [twitter.com/GreatDismal/status/
the Semantic of Historical Time, trans. so after the semantic convergence Verso, 2018), Part One. 1918556578]; accessed March 2018).
Keith Tribe (New York: Columbia Koselleck identifies by various European 28 Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, p. 63. 35 Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is
University Press, 2004 [German: existential tracts on the Death of 29 Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 238. There No Alternative? (Alresford: Zero
1979]), p. 195. God—notably including Nietzsche, for 30 Ibid., p. 238; for the next quote too. Books, 2009), p. 2.
7 Unless otherwise indicated, all citations whom the divine eschaton is replaced 31 Ibid., p. 246. 36 This is a constant in Jameson’s writing
from Koselleck in this section are by the Übermensch, the overman. 32 Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, p. 63. on postmodernity. See for example the
from Futures Past, pp. 193–196. Following Koselleck’s lead, the 33 See Arthur C. Danto, After the End summary statement in ‘The Aesthetics
8 A rendt is compared against Koselleck Übermensch is but the replacement of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of Singularity’: ‘the very heart of any
for the sake of the present argument. of the historical condition of the of History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton account of postmodernity … [is] a
The historical attribution is in fact divine eschaton by anthropos as its University Press, 20142 [19971]). dissolution of past and future alike, a
the reverse: for Arendt’s influence on anthropogenic term. See Friedrich Danto proposes the posthistory of kind of contemporary imprisonment
Koselleck’s thinking of totalitarianism Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, art consequent to its ‘end’: ‘contem- in the present…[,] an existential but
in the 1950s see Niklas Olsen, History trans. Adrian Del Caro (Cambridge, porary art … has no brief against the also collective loss of historicity in
in the Plural: An Introduction to the MA: Cambridge University Press, 2006 art of the past, no sense that the past such a way that the future fades away
Work of Reinhart Koselleck (Oxford: [1883–1892]), p. 5. The replacement is something from which liberation as unthinkable or unimaginable, while
Berghahn Books, 2012), p. 88 n.8; and, of God as the condition of historical must be won, no sense even that it is the past itself turns into dusty images.’
more substantially, Stefan-Ludwig structuring by an anthropogenic at all different as art from modern art Jameson oddly calls this condition a
Hoffman, ‘Koselleck, Arendt, and stipulation is previewed slightly earlier generally. It is part of what defines ‘volatilization of temporality’ (p. 120)
the Anthropology of Historical by Nietzsche in The Gay Science, trans. contemporary art that the art of the rather than its depletion.
Experience’, trans. Tom Lampert, Josephine Naukhoff (Cambridge, MA: past is available for such use as artists 37 Frederic Jameson, ‘Future City’, New
History and Theory 49, no. 2 (May Cambridge University Press, 2001 care to give it’ (p. 5). Danto’s thesis Left Review 21 (May–June 2003), p. 76.
2010), pp. 212–236. [1882]), §125. was first published in explicit form in Jameson here refers to J.G. Ballard as
9 Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 196; see 14 For the distinction between the horizons 1984, acknowledging Hans Belting’s the ‘better coordinate’ than cyberpunk
also p. 132. And, ‘historical time, of experience and expectation, see 1983 argument for the end of art, on for the apocalyptic imaginary of the
if the concept has a specific meaning, Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 2. the basis that the ‘grand narrative’ of ‘churning pseudo-temporality of
is bound up with social and political 15 Ibid., p. 236. artistic development is irredeemable. matter ceaselessly mutating all around
actions, with concretely acting and 16 Frederic Jameson identifies historicity See Hans Belting, The End of the us’ designated ‘junkspace’ by Rem
suffering human beings and their with ‘true futurity’ in ‘The Aesthetics History of Art, trans. Christopher S. Koolhaas. Jameson’s statement is a
institutions and organizations’ (p. 2). of Singularity’, New Left Review 92 Wood (Chicago, IL: University of paraphrase without attribution of H.
About a century after the period (March–April 2015), p. 120. Chicago Press, 1987 [German: 1983]). Bruce Franklin’s criticism of Ballard
Koselleck is examining, Friedrich 17 Koselleck, Futures Past, p. 241. Belting’s characterization recalls as being limited to ‘project[ing] the
Nietzsche presents a typography of 18 Ibid., p. 240. Jean-François Lyotard’s breakthrough doomed social structure in which he
the degrees history mandates and 19 Ibid., p. 240; emphasis added. conception of postmodernism in 1979 exists’ instead of a utopian project
debilitates action—or ‘life’ as Nietzsche 20 Ibid., p. 228, for the following quote as the ‘incredulity’ towards grand of a new world: ‘What could Ballard
designates the term of present too. narratives of progress, replaced create if he were able to envision the
development: see ‘On the Uses and 21 Ibid., p. 224, also p. 228: ‘neue Zeit … then by small narratives without end of capitalism as not the end, but
Disadvantages of History for Life’, can signify in a simple fashion that overarching developmental logic. See the beginning, of a human world?’ See
trans. R.J. Hollingdale, Untimely the contemporary Zeit is, by contrast Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern H. Bruce Franklin, ‘What Are We to
Meditations (Cambridge, MA: with one previous, “new”, whatever the Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Make of J. G. Ballard’s Apocalypse?’,
Cambridge University Press, 1997 mode of graduation. It is in this sense trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian in Voices For The Future: Essays On Ma-
[1876]). that the term modernus was coined, Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: University jor Science Fiction Writers, Vol. 2,
10 For a recent counterintuitive example which has not, since then, lost the of Minnesota Press, 1993 [French: ed. Thomas D. Clareson (Bowling
of history-making according to a meaning of “today”’. 1979]). Green, OH: Bowling Green University

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276 277
Popular Press, 1979), pp. 82–105 Ulrich Beck, World at Risk, trans. of LaSICS: see The Stack: On Software
(also available at [www.jgballard.ca/ Ciaran Cronin (Oxford: Polity, 2008 and Sovereignty (Cambridge, MA: MIT
criticism/ballard_apocalypse_1979. [2007]); and Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Press, 2016), §2. Climate change and
html]). Beck-Gernsheim, Individualization: the Anthropocene provide another ex-
38 Jameson, ‘Aesthetics of Singularity’, Institutionalized Individualism and ample of global-scale future qua risk:
p. 121. its Social and Political Consequences, see Ulrich Beck, The Metamorphosis
39 This because the thesis is Marxian, trans. Patrick Camiller (London: Sage, of the World: How Climate Change is
meaning that it enjoins a horizon 2002). Other theorizations of risk Transforming Our Concept of the World
of communism, which is precisely a societies are also provided by: Anthony (Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 2016).
horizon of expectation structuring Giddens, The Consequence of Modernity The necessity of integration and com-
the present as directed to a new future (Stanford, CA: Stanford University plexity are also demonstrated by the
distinct from it. On this eschatological Press, 1990); Niklas Luhmann, Risk: conjunction of these two global-scale
format, elaborated in a moment in A Sociological Theory, trans. Rhodes configurations: addressing climate
the main text, see Jacques Derrida, Barrett (New York: Routledge, 2017 change and the Anthropocene histor-
Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, [1991]); and Esposito, The Future of ically, prospectively and politically
the Work of Mourning, and the New Futures. requires planetary orders of compu-
International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (New 43 Beck, World at Risk, p. 52. tation in modelling, observation (not
York: Routledge, 2006 [1993]). Derrida 44 In the early 1990s, Giddens proposed least through satellite-based imaging),
identifies Marxism as ‘messianic that what was then often called and communication networks.
without messianism’, which is to say postmodernity was not the overcoming 46 Suhail Malik, ‘The Onto-Politics of
that it proposes ‘a certain experience of modernity but ‘modernity coming the Spectacle and the Abu Ghraib
of the emancipatory promise’ according to understand itself’, its ‘radicaliza- Images’, in Episode: Pleasure and
to ‘the formality of a structural tion’. See Giddens, Consequences of Persuasion in Lens-based Media, ed.
messianism’ (p. 74). For Derrida, this Modernity, pp. 48–52. The convergence Amanda Beech, Jaspar Joseph-Lester,
messianic structure, to be absolutely of Gidden’s argument with the char- and Matthew Poole (London:
endorsed in Marxism, is demarcated acterization of contracontemporary Artwords Press, 2008), pp. 105–116.
from messianism, which is a ‘meta- postmodernity is however blocked by 47 Metanthropic here, signifying the so-
physico-religious determination’ that Gidden’s characterization of prereflexive ciogenic rather than individuated and
gives specific identity to the term of modernity (characterizing the corporeal basis of action in LaSICS,
that promise (p. 111). In that Derrida’s Enlightenment for Giddens) as is distinct from ‘metanthrope’ used by
messianic structure of emancipation inheriting the preceding premodern both Raphael Lepuschitz and Charles
proposes a formal and metahistorical composition of ‘divine providence Stross, both of whom deploy the term
determination of justice via Marxism, which is replaced by providential to mark technical transformations
his theorization is subject to precisely progress’ according to reason, thereby of the human body, a recomposition
the same criticism Bürger puts to ‘replac[ing] one type of certainty by more regularly designated by ‘transhu-
Adorno regarding the transcenden- another’ (p. 48, syntax modified)— manism’. See Raphael Lepuschitz,
talization of the new of Modernism, providing then a basis for European Der Metanthrop: Von Menschen und
now only with regard to capitalism as validation of its colonial dominance, Maschinen (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag,
a whole, as socioeconomic contem- as Koselleck also notes. Koselleck’s 2010); and Stross’s one mention of the
poraneity, which, accordingly, is then thesis, however, is that history can term in Accelerando (London: Orbit,
effectively reinforced by its Marxist be remade qua modernity precisely 2005), p. 288. There is by definition no
criticism and, more so, by what is because even though its format is ‘metanthrope’ as individuated subject
‘undeconstructible’ of deconstruction eschatological, all extrahistorical of the metanthropic operation proposed
(p. 33). determinations are renounced. What in the main text here. The latter is
40 See Greta R. Krippner, Capitalizing on Giddens calls reflexive modernity much closer to Gidden’s notion of
Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise is just modernity anyway according ‘structuration’ but one configured in
of Finance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard to Koselleck. Only that (i) reflexive a speculative present, meaning that
University Press, 2012); and Martijn modernity proposes that historicity structuration is also a destructuration.
Konings, Capital and Time: For a New is open without any eschatological See Anthony Giddens, The Constitution
Critique of Neoliberal Reason (Stanford, configuration—which is postmodernity of Society: Outline of the Theory of
CA: Stanford University Press, 2018). according to the main argument here; Structuration (Cambridge: Polity,
41 A rmen Avanessian and Suhail Malik, and (ii) such a postmodernity itself 1986).
‘The Speculative Time Complex’, in takes two formats—contemporaneity 48 See Diann Bauer, Suhail Malik, and
The Time Complex: Post-Contemporary, and the contracontemporary compo- Natalia Zuluaga, ‘Operationalizing
ed. Armen Avanessian and Suhail sition of the STC, which distinction is Real Abstraction: Art and the General
Malik (Miami: [NAME], 2016), unavailable to Giddens for historical Abstract Image’, in In the Mind but
5-56 (also available at [dismagazine. and theoretical reasons. not from There: Real Abstraction and
com/discussion/81924/the-time-com- 45 Benjamin Bratton’s characterization Contemporary Art, ed. Gean Moreno
plex-postcontemporary/]). of ‘planetary computation’ as an (New York: Verso, forthcoming).
42 Ulrich Beck, Risk Society, trans. Mark ‘accidental megastructure’ provides a
Ritter (London: Sage, 1992 [1986]); salient example for the construction

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278 279
Contributors
The Future of the New Contributors

282 283
The Future of the New Contributors

284 285
The Future of the New Contributors

286 287
Antennae-
Arts in Society
Book Series
Antennae-Arts in Society Series
Antennae-Arts in Society is a peer-reviewed book series that val-
idates artistic, critical, speculative and essayistic writing as a full
academic publishing method. Contributions to the series look up-
on the arts as ‘antennae’, feelers for the cultural interpretation and
articulation of topical political, economic, social, technological or
environmental issues.
The books in this series bring together audiences of diverse
backgrounds: artists and other creative makers, academics and
researchers from various disciplines, critics, writers, journalists,
politicians, curators, and institutional parties, who wish to broad-
en their view in different political, social and other contexts.
Proposals for book concepts in all artistic and scientific disci-
plines that take culture as the base of interpretation for the social
fabric of our contemporary lives are welcomed and will be consid-
ered for publication by the academic board.

Editorial board Valiz-Arts in Society book series:


Pascal Gielen, Professor of Sociology of Culture & Politics,
at the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (Antwerp
University – Belgium), also leads the Culture Commons
Quest Office (CCQO)
Thijs Lijster, Assistant Professor in the Philosophy of Art
and Culture at the University of Groningen, and researcher
at the Culture Commons Quest Office of the University of
Antwerp
Astrid Vorstermans, Publisher Valiz

Antennae-Arts in Society Series

291
Index
The Future of the New Index

294 295
The Future of the New Index

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Colophon
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Antennae Series Antennae N° 7 Antennae N° 14 Antennae N° 20
Teaching Art in the Aesthetic Justice Interrupting the City
Antennae N° 1 Neoliberal Realm Intersecting Artistic and Moral Perspectives Artistic Constitutions of the Public Sphere
The Fall of the Studio Realism versus Cynicism edited by Pascal Gielen & edited by Sander Bax, Pascal Gielen
Artists at Work edited by Pascal Gielen &  Paul De Niels Van Tomme & Bram Ieven
edited by Wouter Davidts  & Kim Paice Bruyne Arts in Society Arts in Society
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2009  (2nd ed.: Arts in Society Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015,
2010), Amsterdam: Valiz, 2012  (2nd ed.: ISBN 978-90-78088-86-8 ISBN 978-94-92095-02-2
ISBN 978-90-78088-29-5 2013),
ISBN 978-90-78088-57-8 Antennae N° 15 Antennae N° 21
Antennae N° 2 No Culture, No Europe In-between Dance Cultures
Take Place Antennae N° 8 On the Foundation of Politics On the Migratory Artistic Identity of
Photography and Place Institutional Attitudes edited by Pascal Gielen Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Akram Khan
from Multiple Perspectives Instituting Art in a Flat World Arts in Society Guy Cools (author)
edited by Helen Westgeest edited by Pascal Gielen Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015, Arts in Society
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2009, Arts in Society ISBN 978-94-92095-03-9 Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015,
ISBN 978-90-78088-35-6 Amsterdam: Valiz, 2013,  ISBN ISBN 978-94-92095-11-4
978-90-78088-68-4 Antennae N° 16
Antennae N° 3 Arts Education Beyond Art Antennae No 22
The Murmuring of the Antennae N° 9 Teaching Art in Times of Change Imaginative Bodies
Artistic Multitude Dread edited by Barend van Heusden & Dialogues in Performance Practices
Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism The Dizziness of Freedom Pascal Gielen Guy Cools (author)
Pascal Gielen (author) edited by Juha van ’t Zelfde Arts in Society Arts in Society
Arts in Society Amsterdam: Valiz, 2013,  ISBN Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2016,
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2009  (2nd ed.: 978-90-78088-81-3 ISBN 978-90-78088-85-1 ISBN 978-94-92095-20-6
2011),
ISBN 978-90-78088-34-9 Antennae N° 10 Antennae N° 17 Antennae No 23
Participation Is Risky Mobile Autonomy The Practice of Dramaturgy
Antennae N° 4 Approaches to Joint Creative Processes Exercises in Artists’ Self-Organization Working on Actions in Performance
Locating the Producers edited by Liesbeth Huybrechts edited by Nico Dockx &  Pascal edited by Konstantina Georgelou,
Durational Approaches to Public Art Amsterdam: Valiz, 2014,  ISBN Gielen Efrosini Protopapa,
edited by Paul O’Neill  & Claire 978-90-78088-77-6 Arts in Society Danae Theodoridou
Doherty Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015, Arts
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2011,  ISBN Antennae N° 11 ISBN 978-94-92095-10-7 Arts in Society
978-90-78088-51-6 The Ethics of Art Amsterdam: Valiz, 2018,
Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts Antennae N° 18 ISBN: 978-94-92095-47-3
Antennae N° 5 edited by Guy Cools & Pascal Gielen Moving Together
Community Art Arts in Society Theorizing and Making Antennae No 24
The Politics of Trespassing Amsterdam: Valiz, 2014,  ISBN Contemporary Dance The Art of Civil Action
edited by Paul De Bruyne &  Pascal 978-90-78088-87-5 Rudi Laermans (author) Political Space and Cultural Dissent
Gielen Arts in Society edited by Philip Dietachmaier, Pascal
Arts in Society Antennae N° 12 Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015, Gielen
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2011 (2nd ed.: 2013), Alternative Mainstream ISBN 978-90-78088-52-3 Arts in Society
ISBN 978-90-78088-50-9 Making Choices in Pop Music Amsterdam: Valiz, 2017,
Gert Keunen (author) Antennae N° 19 ISBN: 978-94-92095-39-8
Antennae N° 6 Arts in Society Spaces for Criticism
See it Again, Say it Again Amsterdam: Valiz, 2014, Shifts in Contemporary Art Discourses
The Artist as Researcher ISBN 978-90-78088-95-0 edited by Thijs Lijster, Suzana
edited by Janneke Wesseling Milevska, Pascal Gielen,
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2011,  ISBN Antennae N° 13 Ruth Sonderegger
978-90-78088-53-0 The Murmuring of the Artistic Arts in Society
Global Art, Politics and Post-Fordism Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015,
Pascal Gielen (author) ISBN 978-90-78088-75-2
Completely revised and enlarged
edition of Antennae N° 3
Arts in Society
Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015,
ISBN 978-94-92095-04-6

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